Report: Senators call for tougher sanctions, say Iran is stalling

More than three-quarters of the U.S. Senate signed a letter calling on President Obama to enact tougher sanctions on Iran, saying the time for diplomacy is quickly running out, The Jerusalem Post is reporting. 

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The letter, spearheaded by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), sent to the White House on Friday came just before this weekend’s inauguration of Iran's new president-elect, Hassan Rouhani.

"Iran has used negotiations in the past to stall for time," the senators wrote, according to the newspaper. "And in any event, Khamenei is the ultimate decision-maker for Iran's nuclear program."

"Mr. President, we urge you to bring a renewed sense of urgency to the process. We need to understand quickly whether Tehran is at last ready to negotiate seriously. Iran needs to understand that the time for diplomacy is nearing its end."

The U.S. "must toughen sanctions and reinforce the credibility of our option to use military force at the same time as we fully explore a diplomatic solution to our dispute with Iran," the senators wrote, according to the Post.

The House voted Wednesday night to tighten sanctions against Iran in an effort to limit Iran's nuclear program, despite calls from some Democrats to delay the vote until more is known about Rouhani.

The Obama administration has been hopeful that Rouhani's election might allow for a diplomatic approach with Iran on the issue of that country's nuclear ambitions. But members dealt a possible blow to those talks by passing the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act, H.R. 850, in a 400-20 vote.

Several House Democrats argued that Rouhani is seen as a far less controversial leader than Mamoud Ahmadinejad. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) said the United States should give Rouhani time before hitting him with more sanctions.

"Why do we want to strengthen the hands of extremists who will say to Rouhani, 'See, you thought you could work with them. We were right all along,' " Ellison said.

Ellison was joined by other Democrats who called for a similar delay. Most Democrats, however, agreed with Republicans that Rouhani is not a reformer, and that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei still runs the country.