New York Sun: Two leading Republican members of Congress are urging the White House to refrain from joining European negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. In an interview yesterday with The New York Sun, Senator Santorum, a Republican of Pennsylvania who is his party’s third-ranking senator, said he did not like the idea of the negotiations. New York Sun
BY ELI LAKE
WASHINGTON – Two leading Republican members of Congress are urging the White House to refrain from joining European negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.
In an interview yesterday with The New York Sun, Senator Santorum, a Republican of Pennsylvania who is his party’s third-ranking senator, said he did not like the idea of the negotiations. “I don’t think we should negotiate with folks who lie and are less trustworthy than anyone in the region,” the chairman of the Republican conference in the Senate said. “It undermines our consistency in how we approach evil.”
A spokesman for the House majority leader, Tom DeLay of Texas, told the Sun yesterday that Mr. DeLay believes Iran’s government has done nothing to show it should be trusted, so America should be skeptical of anything it has to say.
Following the president’s visit to Europe last week, the White House has hinted that it is considering offering incentives for Iran to dismantle its uranium enrichment facilities. On Monday, a White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, said, “The president is considering ideas that were discussed last week in Europe for moving forward on our efforts to get Iran to end its pursuit of nuclear weapons and abzandon its nuclear weapons ambitions.”
Those ideas include America offering to drop its opposition to Iran joining the World Trade Organization, a process that is likely to take several years and require Tehran to make its government spending transparent. President Chirac also asked Mr. Bush to drop specific sanctions that forbid American airplane makers from selling the Islamic republic spare parts for aircraft. Despite such sanctions dating back to the 1979 hostage crisis, many of Iran’s airplanes were made by Boeing and other American companies.
According to a White House official, the president’s top national security advisers met Friday to discuss those options.
Yesterday, U.N. officials reported that Iran had denied International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors access to portions of a suspected military facility in Parchin late last year.
The deputy chief of the IAEA in a report released yesterday said the visits to Parchin “revealed extensive underground excavation activities which Iran had failed to report in a timely manner to the agency as required.” That five page report gave Iran overall good marks for granting timely access to known facilities, but also noted that construction continued of a heavy water facility that could produce plutonium.
“The U.S. goal is to maintain a united position with Europe. There is consideration as to what the United States can do to help the European negotiations right now,” the deputy director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Patrick Clawson, said yesterday.
Since the fall, the governments of Britain, France, and Germany have asked America to join their negotiations to persuade Iran to end its nuclear program in exchange for peaceful nuclear technology and pledges of trade and assistance. In the interview yesterday, Mr. Santorum conceded that it was “easier for me stand here in Washington and say what I think than it is for the president.” Nonetheless, he added, “I’m not going to buy into this European appeasement.”
Mr. Santorum and Senator Brownback, a Republican of Kansas, have supported legislation in the past two years encouraging a democratic revolution in Iran. In the interview yesterday, Mr. Santorum said he consulted with the White House this year about the Iran Freedom and Support Act, a bill that supports the nascent Iranian movement for a referendum on the state’s constitution and would authorize some money for pro-democracy organizations on the ground there.
“We had gotten a lot of push back with the original language of the bill that called for regime change,” Mr. Santorum said. “So we worked out new language with a less ominous tone but that is committed to the same goals.”
Mr. Santorum on October 14 sent a letter to the White House asking for comments on his bill, he said. As a result of negotiations with the State Department, the senator changed the part of his bill that called for America’s policy to be regime change, to language that supported the call for a constitutional referendum with international monitors.
“In Iraq, here was an election that determined the form of the government. Now I don’t think the Iranian regime will allow a vote like that, but the bill states the policy in terms of a positive goal,” he said. Another change he made from his earlier bill was to give opposition groups more flexibility to accept American money without acknowledging the receipt of aid publicly. “The groups will be allowed to remain at arms length from the United States if they have to,” he said.