A group of 50, primarily Democrat, members of the House recently expressed their concern to President Joe Biden about reports of a possible new Iran nuclear agreement. The 16 Republicans and 34 Democrats wrote a letter explaining their concerns to President Biden.
“We are deeply concerned about multiple provisions that reportedly may be contained in the final language of any agreement with the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism,” the group wrote while urging the administration to consult with members of Congress before an agreement is reached.
The president has made reentering the nuclear agreement a crucial part of his foreign policy platform, arguing that Iran’s nuclear program was allowed to grow after former President Donald Trump decided to withdraw from the 2015 deal. Following more than 16 months of negotiations, John Kirby, National Security Council Strategic Communications Coordinator, told reporters that Iran’s decision to abandon several disputed points had allowed for progress.
Iran has made some compromises “that allowed us to get to where we are in the process…so that’s a positive step forward,” said Kirby, noting that both sides are “closer now than we were even just a couple of weeks ago.”
“We’re not there yet,” added Kirby, but noted that “a lot of gaps remain.”
Lawmakers mentioned specifically that one reported concession — that individuals not from the U.S. who do business with Iranians who are not sanctioned on the U.S. sanctions list will not be susceptible to possible sanctions because those Iranians participate in barred and separate transactions. Politico first reported the scenario and obtained excerpts of the text draft though Rob Malley, U.S. special envoy for the Iran talks, denied the plan was being implemented.
Iran still considered a threat to national security
“While we commend you for refusing to remove the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organization — one of our most powerful tools used to compel state sponsors of terror to change — the aforementioned reported provision creates a troubling precedent,” the group wrote. “We are concerned that it could significantly dilute the effectiveness of terrorism-related sanctions on the IRGC, Iran’s parliamentary terror arm, and provides the organization with a pathway for sanctions evasion.”
The lawmakers discussed Russia’s alleged involvement in a nuclear agreement. They mentioned that the administration shouldn’t allow Russia to receive “Iran’s enriched uranium or have the right to conduct near work with the Islamic Republic.” They also noted Iran’s support of Russia’s war on Ukraine, including providing drones to the Russians. The lawmakers also mentioned other incidents involving Iran and the U.S.
Last month, the Justice Department unsealed charges accusing Shahram Poursafi of attempting to murder John Bolton, former Trump national security adviser, in likely retaliation for the United States’ successful strike that killed General Qassem Soleimani in January 2020. Author Salman. Rushdie was also recently stabbed at a public speaking appearance, an incident which Secretary of State Antony Blinken blamed on the Iranian government.
“Amid Iran-sponsored terror plots to assassinate former U.S. officials and Iranian-American dissidents on American soil, this is not time to remove, suspend, or dilute U.S. terrorism sanctions on Iran or the IRGC,” said the congressional lawmakers. “As Secretary Blinken said in his confirmation hearing, America should do ‘everything possible, including the toughest possible sanctions, to deal with Iranian support for terrorism.’”