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Exchange with Senator Menendez on Iran Nuclear Negotiations

Paul Surovell, Chair
South Mountain Peace Action
101 Plymouth Avenue
Maplewood NJU 07040

November 22, 2014

Senator Menendez:

Thank you for your prompt reply to my letter of November 18, 2014 expressing South Mountain Peace Actions support for President Obama's goals for a nuclear agreement with Iran.

In your letter, you write:

"I am seeking a good deal which fundamentally dismantles Iran's nuclear program and provides the international community the ability to know quickly if Iran restarts its program anytime in the next 20 to 30 years."

This appears to endorse President Obama's goals, as stated in our letter, which were also stated by our chief negotiator, Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, in her testimony before your committee on July 29, 2014 (cited in your letter):

"we seek to negotiate a comprehensive plan of action that, when implemented, will ensure that Iran cannot acquire a nuclear weapon and that Iran's nuclear program is exclusively peaceful. A good deal will be one that cuts off the various pathways Iran could take to obtain a nuclear weapon: a uranium pathway, through its activities at Natanz and Fordow; a plutonium pathway, through the Arak heavy water reactor; and a covert pathway. It will therefore need to include tight constraints and strict curbs on Iran's program, and enhanced monitoring and transparency measures to ensure that any attempt to break out will detected as quickly as possible."

I appreciate that you have endorsed an agreement with Iran that would allow Iran to maintain a peaceful nuclear program and provide adequate time for the West to respond should Iran decide to break the agreement.

However, in your letter, you assert that there should be no further negotiations beyond the November 24, 2014 deadline.

I find this position to be arbitrary and gratuitous and contradictory to the security interests of the United States.

As Under Secretary of State Sherman stated in her remarks, Iran's nuclear program is frozen in place. So nothing is lost and a great deal can be gained if it becomes necessary to extend negotiations to December 2014, or January 2014, or even July of 2015.

To reiterate Undersecretary Sherman's statement in her testimony (my bold):

"… under the JPOA, instead of becoming more dangerous over time, Iran's nuclear activities have been more constrained, more closely inspected, and more transparent. This is the first true freeze in Iran's nuclear program in nearly a decade."

I am still hopeful, as I am sure you are, that an agreement can be reached by Monday, November 24, 2014, consistent with the President's goals which you have implicitly endorsed.

However, should it be necessary to extend the negotiations, I urge you to reconsider your position and continue to support the President's negotiations to constrain and roll back Iran's nuclear program to prevent it from building a nuclear weapon.

Thank you for listening.

Sincerely yours,

Paul Surovell

cc: President Obama, South Mountain Peace Action, The Star-Ledger

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In a message dated 11/19/2014 4:32:22 P.M. Eastern Standard Time, Senator Menendez writes:

Dear Mr. Surovell:

Thank you for contacting me to express your thoughts regarding the P5+1 negotiations with Iran. I appreciate hearing your views on this important issue and having the opportunity to respond.

I want to be clear that I support the Administration's diplomatic efforts. I have always supported a two-track policy of diplomacy and sanctions designed to achieve a negotiated agreement on Iran's nuclear program and ambitions. I do not believe the choice we face is between a deal and military action. I am seeking a good deal which fundamentally dismantles Iran's nuclear program and provides the international community the ability to know quickly if Iran restarts its program anytime in the next 20 to 30 years.

I have been clear that the most recent extension of the talks should be the final one. By the November deadline negotiations with Iran will have gone on for a year which is more than enough time to determine whether Iran is willing to make the concessions necessary to achieve an agreement that address all of the international community's concerns. If we fail to reach a deal additional pressure including a new round of sanctions maybe necessary to force Iran to resolve all the issues surrounding its nuclear program.

As Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure that Iran cannot acquire nuclear weapons capability and that any deal we agree to will have the strongest safeguards possible. On July, 2014, I spoke on the Senate floor with regards to the national security challenges we face with Iran and I chaired an important Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the "Iran P5+1 Negotiation Extensions" that I invite you to watch.

Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. This issue if very important to me and I appreciate your support. I invite you to visit my website ( to learn more about how I am standing up for New Jersey families in the United States Senate.

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