Thank you for contacting me about U.S. relations with Iran. I appreciate hearing your thoughts and concerns on these important matters.
I am deeply concerned about the possibility that Iran may obtain nuclear weapons, which would pose a serious threat to the United States and to the peace and stability of the Middle East. In November 2011, a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) stated that Iran had not fully disclosed its nuclear activities and that while many of the identified capabilities developed by Iran “have civilian as well as military applications, others are specific to nuclear weapons.”
The point of the current U.S. policy towards Iran, which I support, is not to goad the Iranian regime into conflict, but to bring it back to the negotiating table. On December 1, 2011, I voted for an amendment to S. 1867, the National Defense Authorization Act, that imposed sanctions on the financial sector of Iran and gave the President waiver authority to decide not to deploy such sanctions in certain instances. This amendment was agreed to in a unanimous 100-0 vote. I ultimately voted against S. 1867 because of my concerns regarding the bill’s impact on civil liberties. However, this legislation still passed the Senate and similar legislation, including the sanctions against Iran, passed both Houses of Congress and was signed into law by President Obama on December 31, 2011.
Let me be clear that I strongly feel that sanctions are the alternative to military action, not a prelude to it. Many American and international security experts believe that a military strike against Iran would be ill-advised. Such a strike would not likely disable Iran’s nuclear program, and it could also have other severe consequences, such as possibly igniting a broader regional war. Because of this, I still believe the ultimate resolution of these issues can and should come from diplomatic action. This is the course of action that has been pursued by the Obama Administration, which, with its partners in the United Nations, European Union, and Iran’s own neighbors in the Persian Gulf, has directly attempted to engage the Iranian regime since it took office in 2009.
It is my hope that effective, multi-lateral sanctions can tip the balance and that Iran will allow open access to the IAEA and honestly engage with the U.S. and international community over its efforts to acquire nuclear capabilities.
Again, thank you for reaching out to me on these important matters. I will be sure to keep your views in mind as developments in Iran and the Middle East continue. Please do not hesitate to keep in contact with me or my staff on this issue or any other that concerns you.
United States Senator
~ Tom Harkin is the junior Senator from Iowa. Check out his website here.