US Senator Bob Menendez criticizing the Biden Administration's Iran talks in the Senate in January 2022

US Senator Bob Menendez criticizing the Biden Administration's Iran talks in the Senate in January 2022

Iran Says Draft US Law Might Undercut Nuclear Talks

7/20/2022

Tehran has said that a proposed new United States legislation could further undermine diplomatic efforts to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Nasser Kanaani, spokesman for the foreign ministry, said Wednesday that Tehran regarded all US political bodies as “one unified unit and that any unconstructive measures will naturally affect the course of talks,” leading Tehran to “adjust its actions accordingly.”

The proposed bill would require the US administration to establish a task force to give Congress an assessment every 120 days of the Iranian nuclear program based both on intelligence from US, Israel and the regular reports of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations body that monitors Iran as a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The bill would also require the White House to outline diplomatic and military plans over Iran.

The bill’s sponsors, Democrat Bob Menendez and Republican Lindsey Graham, are long-term opponents of the 2015 nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and have criticized efforts of the Biden administration to revive it through year-long discussions with Iran and world powers in Vienna.

The legislation, dubbed the ‘Iran Nuclear Weapons Capability Act,’ could jeopardize the international verification system by undermining the IAEA, Tariq Rauf, the agency’s former Head of Verification and Security Policy Cooperation, told Bloomberg. IAEA inspectors, Rauf argued, were “the only ones that can carry out on-site intrusive inspections.”

‘Up to date information’

But Menendez, who chairs the Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations, wrote Tuesday in a statement there was “no reason why the US Congress should not receivethe most up to date information about Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile activities.”

The bill will put further pressure on the Biden Administratrion to take Congressional critics of the JCPOA into account in its Iran strategy.

Iran has expanded its nuclear program beyond JCPOA limits since 2019, the year after President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the agreement and imposed ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions aimed at enforcing 12 demands including Iran halting all uranium enrichment.

Following legislation in the Iranian parliament passed December 1, 2021 after the assassination of scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Iran reduced cooperation with the IAEA to that required under the NPT and increased the level to which it enriched uranium. At 60 percent purity this has now left Tehran within weeks of having enough sufficiently enriched material for a bomb should it choose to do so, US special envoy Rob Malley told CNN Tuesday.

In Tehran, Kanaani said Wednesday that while European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell was“following-up on preparations for the next round of talks… [there was no] fundamental problem for an agreement except that the Americans need to make a political decision.”

Malley by contrast told CNN the onus was with Iran. It has been widely reported that one outstanding issue is the US listing in 2019 of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, part of its armed forces, as a ‘foreign terrorist organization.’ Tehran argues that all sanctions introduced by Trump under ‘maximum pressure’ should be lifted for it to return to the JCPOA’s nuclear limits.

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