And the White House’s growing challenges in crafting any Iran Deal 2.0 go beyond the GOP: Democrats want the president to resist the urge to seek a broader set of concessions from Tehran, saying this will reduce the chances of the United States re-entering the deal. But fellow Democrats also warn of an increasingly difficult path to full compliance by Iran with the terms of the 2015 deal, especially after a recently disclosed audio leak revealed the Iranian business minister. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif lamenting the influence of the country’s Revolutionary Guard Corps in its diplomatic efforts. with the West.
“I’m for a longer and stronger deal with Iran, but that won’t happen until after we return to the JCPOA,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) In a brief interview, using the abbreviation for the 2015 agreement, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. “If we were to insist that we reach a comprehensive deal to include their support for terrorist groups, their human rights record, their ballistic missile programs – that would be the death knell for the JCPOA.
The leaked audio made headlines for Zarif’s references to Biden’s climate adviser and former Secretary of State John Kerry, but the Iranian minister’s comments also signaled lawmakers that moderate forces in Iran are taking precedence. extremist extremists who are reluctant to get involved. with the United States and other western countries. Such a trend signals to some senior Democrats that bringing the United States and Iran back into line with the 2015 accord will be a Herculean task at best.
“Zarif’s comments certainly at least complicate the picture. You have to ask yourself, what can they accept and run on? Said Senate External Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (DN.J.), who opposed the 2015 deal with Iran.
The foreign minister’s remarks raise the question “whether this makes a lot of sense in terms of what we can commit to,” Menendez added. “These are all factors that have to go into it.”
The Biden team is under no illusions about its difficult road to re-engagement with Iran after Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal and imposed biting new sanctions on the regime in Tehran, an approach nicknamed “maximum pressure”. Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, said on Sunday that “there is still a fair distance to go to address the remaining gaps, and those gaps relate to sanctions that the United States and other countries will cancel” in exchange of restrictions on Tehran’s nuclear program. .
“Our diplomats will continue to work on this over the next few weeks to try to achieve a mutual return to the JCPOA, which is the Iran nuclear deal, on a compliance for compliance basis,” Sullivan told ABC. week”.
Re-entering the JCPOA would almost certainly require the Biden administration to lift some of these Trump-era sanctions – which could be subject to congressional approval, including from hawks Democrats like Menendez whose opposition to the 2015 accord led to a politically painful process under the then president. Barack Obama. This time around, the same key players will be eager to be seen by Congress again.
“The question is: what does ‘longer and stronger’ mean?” Menendez added, citing the phrase Secretary of State Antony Blinken coined during his confirmation hearing earlier this year to refer to the administration’s future plans for the deal. “If we get reciprocity on the things that are important to us from the Iranians, we will need sanctions relief. But the real question is, why are you giving sanctions relief and what sanctions are you talking about dropping? “
Biden’s first priority is to bring the United States and Iran back into line with the 2015 agreement, which dealt exclusively with Iran’s nuclear program. Still, its MPs are hoping for a broader deal that could potentially address the country’s malicious non-nuclear activities in the region, including its support for terrorist proxies and its ballistic missile program.
In the meantime, however, Biden’s allies on Capitol Hill are sounding the alarm bells about the importance of getting back into compliance with the 2015 accord, even if that means other sources of tension between Washington and Tehran are found in the cutting room.
“As much as I’m concerned about what they’re doing to support terrorism across the Middle East, to disrupt transport routes and everything, I think the focus should continue to be to keep them from. obtain a nuclear weapon, ”added Sen Jeanne Shaheen (DN.H.).
Despite Iran’s reluctance to meet with U.S. officials in Vienna, there are some early positive signs of the regime’s willingness to deal, including its recent engagement with its longtime nemesis Saudi Arabia on issues important to the regime. the Biden administration, such as a ceasefire in Yemen.
Meanwhile, Republicans are looking to a 2015 law called the Iran Nuclear Deal Review Law to help derail any effort to get back into this year’s nuclear deal. Passed to give Congress a chance to weigh in on the eventual deal, the 2015 law could prove crucial this time around by allowing lawmakers to formally reject efforts to lift the Trump administration’s sanctions.
Republicans, who have consistently opposed the 2015 deal since Obama struck it, waste no time criticizing the Biden administration’s talks as wasteful and potentially dangerous.
“[The Iranians] did nothing to gain indirect discussions or direct discussions. Their behavior has not changed. It’s going to be seen as appeasement, ”said Senator Lindsey Graham (RS.C.) in a brief interview. “This reinforces the rhetoric that the West is weak… I see these negotiations as very destabilizing for the region.”
During his first 100 days in office, Biden was forced to confront an increasingly aggressive Iran on fronts outside of its nuclear program. The president ordered airstrikes on Iranian-backed assets in Syria in February in retaliation for attacks on US forces in the region. Republicans have argued that Trump’s sanctions regime gives the United States extraordinary leverage and that unless Iran is willing to compromise on its support for terrorist proxies in the region, the United States United should not go back to the 2015 accord.
“It is impossible at this point to separate the nuclear program from all the other nefarious activities Iran is undertaking,” said Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Deputy Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, in a brief interview.
Pushing the existing review law of 2015 even further, a group of GOP senators recently unveiled legislation aimed at preventing Biden from joining the nuclear deal. The bill would ensure that any new deal the president makes takes the form of a treaty, requiring congressional approval. A cohort of House Republicans introduced a similar bill that would also impose even more sanctions on the Iranian regime and further hamper the Biden team for the ongoing negotiations.
“If they don’t do it as a treaty, then it’s just a political deal that’s not as good as the current administration,” Said Rubio. “This could be changed by a future administration.”
Biden’s allies argue that the current obscurity surrounding any return to the nuclear pact is not the president’s fault; On the contrary, they argue, Trump made Biden’s task impossible when he went beyond simply withdrawing from the 2015 deal to imposing brand new sanctions unrelated to Iran’s nuclear program. During this spring’s talks in Vienna, Iran demanded that all such US sanctions be removed.
“There is damage that has been done by the Trump administration’s approach that will make it more complicated,” said Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.). “But it’s always the right answer to try to get the Iranians to comply with the nuclear deal again and then focus our efforts on non-nuclear activities.”