Schumer: Tough sanctions prompting Iranian outreach

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post on Thursday that laid out the case for a “constructive engagement” with the U.S. The editorial came on the heels of a New York Times report that said Iranian leaders were prepared to make concessions over their nuclear program after a letter from President Obama indicated the U.S. might be open to striking a deal.

“As I depart for New York for the opening of the U.N. General Assembly, I urge my counterparts to seize the opportunity presented by Iran’s recent election,” Rouhani wrote. “I urge them to make the most of the mandate for prudent engagement that my people have given me and to respond genuinely to my government’s efforts to engage in constructive dialogue.”

Earlier this week, the White House said it was “willing” to meet with diplomatic representatives of the Iranian regime at the United Nations general assembly next week in New York. It would be the first engagement of its kind since the two countries cut off diplomatic ties in 1980.

“Remember, the Iranian regime is premised on the fact of economic advancement, and they are hurting, hurting, hurting,” Schumer continued. 

“Now the one thing we cannot do is let up on the sanctions while these talks go on. Keep squeezing, squeezing, squeezing. But you could paint a scenario where Syria is gone with its chemical weapons, Iran is gone with its nuclear weapons, and that would be pretty good, not only for the president but also for the United States of America.”

Rouhani has portrayed himself as a moderate willing to work with the U.S. on a diplomatic solution regarding Iran’s pursuit of nuclear technologies, which it insists is for peaceful purposes.

Still, the Iranian president warned that a “constructive approach to diplomacy doesn’t mean relinquishing one’s rights.”