President Joe Biden with Secretary of State Antony Blinken in March 2022

US Congress Urges Policy Change On Iran

Friday, 03/03/2023
Arash Aalaei

Iran International Correspondent

Two years into Joe Biden's presidency, the White House is struggling to keep up with a long list of global crises, including growing frustration over the Iran.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Senate weekly bipartisan luncheon on Tuesday, Senator Bob Menendez told Iran International: “I don't know what it will take for the administration to understand that Iran is not changing its ways, on the contrary it's doubling down."

Menendez has been in the US Congress since 1993 and is known for his measured tone and composed articulations but in a rare expression of frustration, he said: "There should be a clear set of actions that sends a message to the regime in Iran that their behavior will have consequences."

He is one of many in the Congress whose patience is wearing thin. The Biden administration, which in March 2021 said that Trump's maximum pressure campaign is a failure, continued with those set of sanctions and has been gradually adding more to that.

As Iran inches closer to military grade enriched uranium, it is notable that the US Congress is getting further frustrated with regards to the Biden administration's policy on Iran. Republicans have kept almost all their ranks together on criticizing Biden for it, but they don't seem to have a strategy to deal with Iran.

Senator Bob Menendez addressing the Senate on Biden's policy of talks with Iran in early 2022

Some Democrats still have not given up on a nuclear deal with the Islamic republic, but they are split on what to do next. War with Iran will dim the chances of reelection in a war weary America and the President's approval ratings are not strong. But there are also many Democrats who demand a tougher policy toward Iran.

Patrick Clawson, Senior fellow and Director of research at Washington Institute said that as Iran continues to find ways of evading sanctions, the international community must be vigilant. "There are always steps that can be taken to increase sanctions enforcement. Iran creatively comes up with new ways to evade sanctions and the challenge for the United States Government is to stay up to date in cracking down on the latest evasion mechanisms”, he said.

As military activity steps up, that too, casts a different light on the global stage. From Israel’s shadow war with Iran to the US drills with Israel and other allies, there are fears escalation is not far away.

Israeli F-35 pilots next to their warplane. Undated

Since the Abraham Accords signed in 2020 brought diplomatic relations between Israel and some of its Gulf neighbors, namely the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, the arena is becoming more complex. Fears of Iran's capabilities are rippling not only across the region, but globally.

“The drills with the Israelis have become much more explicitly anti-Iran,” Clawson told Iran International. “That could accelerate. So too could the long-standing efforts to persuade GCC states to cooperate on early warning for air defense, on which there has been some notable progress, at long last.”

As military experts increasingly believe Iran’s rapidly advancing nuclear progress leaves Israel - Iran’s arch enemy - with little choice but to take military action, there is a real worry that Middle East stability is shaking.

In an exclusive interview, Senator Jim Risch, who has been in regular talks with Israel's hardline Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu since his return to office, said: “Everything Iran has been doing that is bad behavior, always endangers the environment in the Middle East." He said "each and every one" of his meetings with Netanyahu have had Iran at their core.

However, with domestic issues at home pointing to a potential third intifada on the horizon and civil unrest tearing the country apart, Clawson believes Netanyahu and the Biden administration do not feel Iran is the number one issue they face.

Neither is eager for a full-scale confrontation with Iran and it is no secret that Netanyahu is a fan of covert strikes, not only against the nuclear program but also the drones and precision-missile project, an issue the Biden team steadfastly refuses to be drawn into publicly. “Many in the White House think Israeli covert strikes are ineffective or counterproductive because Iran retaliates by reducing IAEA access,” Clawson added.

As options begin to run dry as to how best to deal with Iran's rogue behavior in spite of sanctions, Senator Josh Hawley has suggested radical new steps be taken. "I think it is good to delegitimize the current government of Iran which ought to be treated as a pariah government. I think a part of what the US government must continue to do is to empower allies and partners in the region to disempower Iran, rather than empower it, which is what this current administration I think has tried to do."

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