House GOP moves to overturn Biden’s Iran nuclear diplomacy

Nearly 200 House Republicans have written to President Biden warning him that any nuclear deal reached with Iran without Congressional approval “will meet the same fate” as President Obama’s 2015 deal later scrapped by President Trump.

Why is it important: The Biden administration has been working feverishly to secure a deal through indirect nuclear talks in Vienna, but on Wednesday an Iranian official publicly called on Congress to commit to the United States remaining in a potential deal.

  • The GOP letter — signed by most members of the party that polls predict will lead the House next year — flatly rejects Iran’s request.
  • It also complicates Biden’s already strenuous efforts to revive the deal brokered by the Obama administration and backed by the European Union and the UN Security Council.
  • The administration sees a return to an accord as a way to avert a nuclear arms race in an already unstable Middle East.

What they say : “We will consider any agreement reached in Vienna that is not submitted to the United States Senate for ratification as a treaty – including all secret agreements reached with Iran directly or on the sidelines of official talks – as non-binding,” they said. GOP lawmakers. wrote to Biden.

  • The letter sets out terms that Iran’s leaders would likely never agree to.
  • Republicans vow to oppose any deal that lifts US sanctions on Iran unless the Iranian regime has first fully dismantled all of its enrichment capabilities.
  • They also want Iran to destroy its nuclear-capable missiles, cease all sponsorship of terrorism, and pay “US Federal Court judgments owed to US victims of Iranian regime-sponsored terrorism.”

The big picture: The letter sends a clear statement to Iranians about the GOP’s determination to oppose re-entry into the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

  • 175 House Republicans, including establishment members and die-hard Trumpists, signed the letter — a striking statement in itself.
  • Representatives Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) and Michael Waltz (R-Fla.) led the effort. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy signed it, as did his political nemesis, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.).
  • 33 Republican senators took the same position, warning in a letter this month that the implementation of a nuclear deal would be “severely, if not permanently, hampered” if Biden did not submit to a Senate vote.
  • A State Department spokesperson told Axios, “The Biden administration is not negotiating a return to mutual compliance with the JCPOA based on who is stationed in Iran today or tomorrow, and we expect to the same approach to Iran.”

Rollback: These messages echo a 2015 open letter to Iran led by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.).

  • At that time, Democrats accused him of undermining nuclear negotiations by saying any deal not ratified by Congress could be revoked “with the stroke of a pen”.

Driving the news: As the indirect talks come at a critical juncture, Iran has publicly called on Congress to make a “political statement” committing the United States to the potential nuclear deal.

  • “As a matter of principle, Iranian public opinion cannot accept as a guarantee the words of a head of state, let alone the United States, because of the withdrawal of the Americans from the JCPOA,” said the Iranian Minister of Affairs. foreign to the Financial Times.
  • The GOP’s adamant refusal to accede to this demand – and to pledge to back out of any deal the next time it takes over the White House – could end up influencing Iranian decision-making.
  • France’s foreign minister said on Wednesday that a decision on reviving the deal was “only a matter of days” and that it was now time for Iran to take the necessary political decisions to avoid a “serious crisis”.

Between the lines: “Republicans are sending a pretty strong and clear message to Iranians and the private sector with this letter,” said Richard Goldberg, a former senior Iranian official on Trump’s National Security Council who is currently a senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

  • “To Iran: Whatever you think Biden agrees to in Vienna doesn’t have the political support in Washington to survive the party’s next shift in control of the White House or Congress – sanctions will absolutely come back,” said Goldberg to Axios.
  • “To the private sector: are you really going to put your head in the lion’s mouth with these same Republicans ready to take over Congress in November?

The other side: “The reality is that the JCPOA has already been considered and voted on in Congress. What the administration is negotiating in Vienna is a path back to the original agreement, not a new one,” said Ali Vaez, Iran Project Director at Crisis Group. Axios.

  • “Despite all the political posturing, there is virtually nothing Congress can do to prevent this from happening,” he added.
  • “This letter shows that Republicans are either unable or unwilling to learn from the failures of Trump’s 12 maximalist demands that have now brought Iran closer than ever to the brink of nuclear weapons.”

The bottom line: The United States has for years sought to avoid the binary choice between military action and Iran’s nuclear capability.

  • That, however, is the direction the Biden administration is heading if it fails to strike a deal.

Go further: Read the letter.

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