Sen. Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezOvernight Defense & National Security — Blinken heads to the hot seat Blinken to testify before Senate panel next week on Afghanistan Overnight Health Care — FDA vaccine scientists depart amid booster drama MORE (D-N.J.) is raising pressure on the administration days before a deadline to reach an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.
“I am writing to express my grave concern about recent demands by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Iran’s parliament rejecting critical elements of an agreement for a possible nuclear deal,” Menendez wrote in a letter sent Friday to Secretary of State John KerryJohn Kerry9/11 and US-China policy: The geopolitics of distraction Australia's duty to the world: Stop mining coal Overnight Energy & Environment — Effort to repeal Arctic refuge drilling advances MORE. “If Iran insists on these red lines in negotiations, then I strongly urge you to suspend negotiations rather than accept a bad deal with Iran.”
The New Jersey Democrat referenced a speech earlier this week during which Khamenei said that all U.S. sanctions, including those from Congress, as well as U.N. sanctions should be lifted as soon as a deal is signed. Iran’s supreme leader also called the inspections of military sites “out of the question” and added that a freezing of Iran’s nuclear research and development for 10 years wouldn't be accepted as part of a deal.
His speech followed an objection from Iran’s parliament on allowing U.N. inspectors access to military sites.
Menendez said that Khamenei’s requirements are “unacceptable,” adding that Iran has previously been an “untrustworthy negotiating partner.”
Menendez’s letter comes as negotiators from the United States, Iran and five other countries face a June 30 deadline to lock down an agreement. Kerry is expected to travel to Vienna on Friday to join the talks.
The administration has been under increasing pressure from lawmakers as the deadline has drawn close. On Thursday, Menendez, as well as Sen. Mark KirkMark Steven KirkDuckworth announces reelection bid Brave new world: Why we need a Senate Human Rights Commission Senate majority battle snags Biden Cabinet hopefuls MORE (R-Ill.), introduced legislation that would extend an Iran sanctions bill, currently set to expire next year, through 2026.
The two senators have been at the forefront of a congressional push for additional sanctions against Iran.
Menendez outlined in his letter to Kerry what he believes cannot be part of a long-term deal, saying that sanctions can’t be lifted until the Iranian government “meets their obligations.” He added that a deal that doesn’t include “intrusive” inspections or “leaves Iran as a threshold nuclear state, is a bad deal that threatens the national security of America and our allies, and must be rejected.”