Groups of US lawmakers have expressed deep concern to President Joe Biden over a potential agreement in Vienna to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, or JCPOA.
Nine Republicans and 11 Democrats House members in a letter obtained by the Jewish Insider said on Thursday, “it is hard to envision supporting an agreement along the lines being publicly discussed.”
The 20 signatories - led by Republican Tom Reed, and Democrats Josh Gottheimer and Elaine Luria – said they had hoped that “renewed negotiations with Iran would achieve a longer and stronger agreement than the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), with clear nuclear restrictions and provisions addressing Iran’s international terror and missile programs.”
The move came after a group of Republican lawmakers on Wednesday urged Biden not to make a deal in Vienna, saying it would be a big win for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Putin will make billions in oil and gas transactions, in nuclear transactions and in weapons transactions,” Republican Senator Ted Cruz leading the charge said.
Sen. Jim Risch, (R-Idaho), said the US should walk away from a deal being negotiated by Russia and Iran, “two of our worst enemies on the planet.”
“This doesn't need to be done right now,” Risch said. “And particularly, it doesn't need to be done when we have the problems going on that we have in the Ukraine. We should walk.”
The letter by 20 Representatives opposed “the potential lifting of the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and of the sanctions placed on members of the office of the [Iranian] Supreme Leader.” The measures cited were both introduced by Trump executive orders after his administration withdrew the US in 2018 from the JCPOA.
The signatories said Iran was “the world’s leading state-sponsor of terror,” and that easing sanctions would pave “a clear path for Iranian proxies to continue fueling terrorism,” a reference to Iranian allies deemed ‘terrorists’ by the US, including Palestinian groups and Hezbollah.
Support ‘contingent on answers’
The lawmakers listed 16 questions about the Vienna talks, claiming their support for any agreement in Vienna would “be contingent largely on satisfactory answers to the questions.” They urged President Biden to brief them within the next week.
The questions included whether any agreement would be reviewed by the Congress, something the Biden administration has already ruled out. The lawmakers said they wanted to be told exactly which US sanctions would be lifted, and what Iran’s ‘break out’ time would be – referring to the period required in theory to assemble a crude nuclear weapon, one greatly reduced since early 2021 when Iran began enriching uranium to 60-percent purity.
The Congressmen and women also wanted to know whether Russia might derive any economic benefits (presumably through trade with Iran), whether Russia would return Iran’s nuclear material if it decided the deal has been breached, and whether Russian President Vladimir Putin (presumable rather than mechanisms established under the JCPOA) would be de facto judge of compliance with the agreement.
They also demanded to know what would happen if Iran violated the agreement once the ‘snapback mechanism,’ allowing the reimposition of sanctions on Iran, lapsed in 2025; and exactly how much money Iran would gain from easing sanctions. They also demanded to be informed if the Biden administration would ask Congress to lift other sanctions in 2023, and how US ‘human rights’ policies might be affected by reviving the JCPOA.