House Democrats aim to force Obama into diplomacy with Iran

Nine House Democrats and one Republican on Thursday proposed legislation that would force the Obama administration to launch a formal diplomatic effort to persuade Iran to abandon its alleged nuclear program.

The Prevent Iran from Acquiring Nuclear Weapons and Stop War Through Diplomacy Act, H.R. 4173, notes that Obama has said several times that the United States needs to use all means available to dissuade Iran, including sanctions and diplomacy. But the bill argues Obama has failed to follow through. 

"While the Obama administration has rejected failed policies of the past by engaging in negotiations with Iran without preconditions, only four of such meetings have occurred," the bill says.

The bill notes that under current policy, State Department officials are not permitted to meet with Iranian officials without explicit authorization from the secretary of State. The bill would force State to rescind this "no contact" policy and nominate a representative or special envoy to Iran who would lead direct talks between the two countries.

The envoy would conduct "direct, bilateral negotiations with the government of Iran without preconditions in order to reduce tensions, prevent war, prevent nuclear proliferation, support human rights and seek resolutions to issues that concern the United States and the international community." The envoy would also provide Congress a report on his or her efforts every six months.

Obama was criticized by Republicans during his presidential campaign for saying he would be open to talks with Iran and other countries without preconditions. His chief opponent in the Democratic primary, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, took a much tougher stance, saying the United States would "obliterate" Iran if it used nuclear weapons against Israel.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), and the lone Republicans co-sponsor is Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.). Other Democratic co-sponsors are Reps. John Conyers Jr. (Mich.), Keith Ellison (Minn.), Bob Filner (Calif.), Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas), Dennis Kucinich (Ohio), Pete Stark (Calif.), Maxine Waters (Calif.) and Lynn Woolsey (Calif.).

More in National Security

Democrats to force vote on abolishing Benghazi committee

Read more »