A group of US House Democrats expressed concerns Wednesday in Washington over the Biden Administration efforts to reach a new nuclear deal with Iran.
Led by Democratic Reps. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey and Elaine Luria of Virginia, the group representing 18 Democrats held a news conference on the one-year anniversary of the start of negotiations in Vienna to revive the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.
The lawmakers said Washington should not enter into a bad deal that allows Iran to continue its terrorist activities across the region and fails to prevent the Islamic Republic from ever obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Almost all Senate Republicans and many in the House have criticized the administration for its pursuit of a new deal with Iran, but Democrats have joined the opposition more recently.
Congresswoman Luria said, "I have serious concerns about reports that Vienna Talks are discussing the lifting of sanctions designed not just to address Iran's... nuclear activities, but even addressing the sponsorship of terrorism", adding that “we cannot afford another failed deal".
“We understand that while the recent negotiations have not concluded, we feel that we can't stay quiet about the unacceptable and deeply troubling turn that these talks have reportedly taken”, she said referring to Iran’s demands to remove the IRGC for the US list of foreign terrorist organizations.
“I believe it's completely unacceptable that it would be considered as part of this negotiation to lift Iran's Foreign Terrorist Organization designation on Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corp, it's completely unacceptable to eliminate sanctions on the leadership of the Iranian regime, which has perpetuated terrorist attacks around the world…and has sought to destabilize the Middle East” she added.
Rep. Gottheimer noted that “if Iran has proven anything, it’s that they can’t be trusted", adding that it is critical the US does not cater to Iran's demands.
He further underlined that "we need a longer and stronger deal, not one that is shorter and weaker. It's time to stand strong against terrorists, protect American values and our allies."
He added that the worst case scenario is “a nuclear Iran, regardless of what commitments are made, funding Hezbollah, Hamas -- through these giving billions of dollars to fund terror around the world to kill Americans, to attack our bases, and of course, to kill our allies”.
He also questioned the role of Russia to keep tab on Iran, asking that "are we seriously going to let a war criminal — Vladimir Putin — be the guarantor of this deal?”
California’s Juan Vargas criticized the Biden administration for keeping Congress in the "dark", saying, “I don’t know exactly what’s in this deal. I can't tell you as they haven't allowed us to look at it”.
"It's a little bit like last time. They keep us in the dark. Then… it turns out there are some fatal flaws. It was a bad deal then, and it's a bad deal now”, he added.
Voicing his suspicion and reservations on the potential deal, Congressman Donald Norcross -- from New Jersey's 1st congressional district -- noted that "all we're doing, in my opinion, is delaying the time it takes Iran to get nuclear weapons."
Minnesota’s Representative Dean Phillips said, “We are not opposed to an agreement. We are opposed to an agreement that doesn't absolutely, positively prevent Iran from either producing or obtaining a nuclear weapon and doesn't end their regime of terror.”
In interview with MSNBC on Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken answering a direct question said IRGC is a terrorist organization. “I would say simply that I’m not overly optimistic at the prospects of actually getting an agreement to conclusion, despite all the efforts we put into it, and despite the fact that our security would be better off. We’re not there… and time is getting extremely short”.