A general view of the US Capitol

Congressional Heat Increases On Biden To Get Tougher With Iran

Thursday, 06/22/2023

As more signs show renewed contacts between Iran and the West, a bipartisan group of 26 US senators have asked President Joe Biden not to rush into a bad agreement.

The senators expressed their concern over reports that the administration is trying to reach a limited nuclear deal with Iran, which it apparently intends to keep out of the US Congress by not signing a formal document.

“It is crucial for your administration to remain aligned with Congressional efforts related to Iran’s nuclear program and not agree to a pact that fails to achieve our nation’s critical interests,” the letter said.

The Jewish Insider reported that the bipartisan coalition was formed and the text drafted before recent revelations of talks with Iran, but it now has assumed new significance. 

The letter was led by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and James Lankford (R-OK), but there are several Democratic senators who previously supported the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal.

While the Biden administration has not denied regular direct and indirect contacts with Iran, diplomatic activities picked up speed this week as Iran’s foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian visited Qatar and Oman, traditional mediators between Washington and Tehran. Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri-Kani also met with the European Union’s negotiator Enrique Mora in Qatar.

Delegations led by European Union foreign policy official Enrique Mora and Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri-Kani during a meeting in Qatar on June 21, 2023

“We exchanged views and discussed a range of issues including negotiations on sanctions lifting,” Bagheri-Kani tweeted after the meeting. The Iranian régime calls the negotiations talks to lift sanctions, not to a nuclear deal.

“It is imperative today that we strengthen our efforts to deter Iran from achieving nuclear weapons capability. We must make Iran understand, in no uncertain terms, that further advances in its nuclear program will be met with unified international action,” the 26 senators wrote to Biden.

US lawmakers have repeatedly complained about the Biden administration’s lax sanctions enforcement against Iran, especially with China steadily increasing imports of embargoed Iranian oil.

Since Biden’s election in 2020, Iran’s daily oil exports have jumped from 250,000 barrels per day to nearly 1.5 million, mostly going to China through illicit methods.

“Iran simply cannot be allowed to advance its nuclear program with impunity and the PRC cannot be given a pass for accelerating Iran’s destabilizing behavior. We urge you to restore this posture of deterrence and provide leadership to strengthen the resolve of the international community,” the letter said.

US Representative Michael McCaul (R-TX)

Last week House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul also sent a letter to President Joe Biden saying, “I am disturbed by recent revelations that the Administration has re-engaged in ‘proximity talks’ with the Iranian regime, and that the results of these discussions have included the apparent greenlighting of sizable payments to Iran.“

He was referring to the White House allowing Iraq to release more the $2.7 billion in Iran’s frozen funds earlier this month.

McCaul urged Biden to respect the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 (INARA), which was enacted during the finalization of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2015 to allow Congress to oversee dealings with Tehran. The Obama administration decided not to make the JCPOA nuclear deal a treaty, given opposition in Congress at the time and agreed to INARA to neutralize opposition among lawmakers.

„We urge you to take meaningful steps to curb Iran’s destabilizing activities and deter the regime from pursuing this nefarious ambition any further,“ the senators told President Biden.

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