President Joe Biden is facing increasing backlash as Congress demands answers as to how the latest nuclear talks with Iran short-cut strict US laws.
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul have written to Biden accusing him of breaking a 2015 law by negotiating a secret nuclear “understanding” with Iran and hiding it from Congress.
Any negotiations and agreements with Iran must go through the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which clearly states that within five days after reaching any agreement with Iran regarding Iran's nuclear program, the President must relay to Congress several issues for approval.
These include “the text of the agreement and all related materials and annexes; a related verification assessment report of the Secretary of State; a certification that the agreement includes the appropriate terms, conditions, and duration of the agreement's requirements concerning Iran's nuclear activities, and provisions describing any sanctions to be waived, suspended, or otherwise reduced by the United States and any other nation or entity, including the United Nations”.
The three Republicans wrote to Biden of their “significant concern” that the administration is pursuing a nuclear understanding with Iran alongside a hostage release deal. Earlier this month, five dual US-Iranian citizens held in Iran were released in return for the unfreezing of $6bn of Iranian funds in South Korea, a move which experts said only compound Iran’s policy of hostage taking for gaining leverage against the West.
The letter, dated August 21, stated “any such deal or understanding with Iran that does not permanently and completely halt Iran’s nuclear enrichment raises concerns that your Administration is entrenching an Iranian nuclear program that threatens US national security”, detailing the rapidly increasing levels of uranium enrichment revealed this year.
“Reducing the rate at which Iran is stockpiling 60% enriched uranium does not significantly change this threat, particularly as Iran continues to install advanced centrifuges,” the trio said, reiterating Iran’s cessation to comply with the JCPOA nuclear agreement and its continued refusal to fully cooperate with an ongoing International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) investigation.
Referring to last week’s deal, the group stressed that the hostage-taking policy of the regime, which has been going on for years, is the Iranian Republic’s “negotiating tactic and funding mechanism”, all of which puts US security and the security of its citizens at greater risk.
Just last week, Richard Goldberg, a senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and former White House National Security Council director for countering Iranian weapons of mass destruction, raised the matter of Biden’s skirting the legal obligations. “Emergency hearings cannot be held. Resolutions of disapproval cannot be fast-tracked. President Biden has successfully evaded the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which requires him to notify Congress of any agreement with Iran related to its nuclear program before lifting sanctions,” he said.
The Republicans warned Biden that if “the Administration continue to ignore US law and flout congressional oversight, we will use all the tools at our disposal to bring transparency and accountability to the American people and return to a policy of maximum pressure that reverses Iran’s nuclear advancements and deters its targeting of American citizens and service members, support for terrorism and other malign activities”.
The controversy continues alongside allegations that the reasons for the suspension of Iran envoy Robert Malley have been hidden from Congress for several months. While the news of his suspension over what was called suspected security breaches was announced in June, it is believed that it had happened as early as April, which was revealed by an Iranian government newspaper.
In spite of multiple investigations going on side by side, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Malley suspected of mishandling confidential security documents, he has landed faculty positions at Yale’s Jackson School and Princeton’s School of Public and International Affairs.