Dems propose US engage diplomatically with Iran over nukes

House Democrats have proposed legislation that would require the government to establish a diplomatic envoy to Iran to attempt to convince that country to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), the sponsor of the bill, says the government must end its "no contact" policy with Iran, which now prevents any direct talks between U.S. and Iranian officials.

"The darkening clouds surrounding Iran's nuclear program are troubling," Lee said last week. "We must use all diplomatic tools available, including engaging in direct bilateral and multilateral diplomacy. To do that, we must lift the 'no contact' policy and begin negotiations."

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The bill, H.R. 783, would require the new envoy to Iran to pursue "direct, sustained, bilateral and multilateral negotiations with the Government of Iran in order to prevent war, and support human rights," according to Lee's summary of the bill.

But it seems highly unlikely the bill will be able to win enough support in Congress to take the U.S. off its current path of ever-tightening economic sanctions against Iran, and onto a new path of diplomacy. Opponents of these sanctions, such as Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and former Reps. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), have said sanctions essentially put the U.S. on a path to eventual war with Iran.

And yet, support for tighter sanctions against Iran has been very strong over the last few years, including among the Democratic leadership and among most rank-and-file.

In December, for example, the House voted 410-11 to tighten sanctions against Iran. Rep. Lee was one of those 11 "no" votes, but of the 10 Democratic cosponsors on Lee's new bill to encourage diplomacy, seven of them supported tighter sanctions in that December vote — Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.), John Dingell (D-Mich.), Rush Holt (D-N.J.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and Bobby Rush (D-Ill.).

In the last Congress, Kucinich introduced a resolution that called upon the U.S. government to begin bilateral and multilateral diplomacy with Iran. That resolution never moved in the House.