Biden must work with Congress on Iran nuclear deal
When it comes to the Iranian regime, the Biden administration appears to have taken a different path than the US Congress — one that will be inimical to Washington’s national and geopolitical interests in the Middle East.
Bipartisan agreements in US politics are extremely rare these days. But countering the Iranian regime’s destructive behavior, nuclear threat and defiance, as well as Tehran’s military adventurism in the region, is one cause that unites left and right in unprecedented ways.
Unfortunately, the Biden administration seems to be keeping both Congress and America’s allies in the Middle East in the dark concerning what is being negotiated with the Iranian leaders regarding a new nuclear deal.
So, a bipartisan group of 50 members of the House of Representatives — 34 Democrats and 16 Republicans — is currently urging the White House to release the text of the proposed deal. They told President Joe Biden: “We are writing to respectfully request that your administration provide Congress with the full text of any proposal to rejoin the Iran nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, including any side agreements, and consult with Congress prior to reentering that agreement.”
The House members likely want to prevent the Biden administration from making the same mistakes the Obama administration made when it signed the JCPOA in 2015. The Obama White House was all too eager to grant concessions to the Iranian regime in order to seal the deal, while it also turned out that the administration made multiple secret side deals with the Iranian regime.
One of the secret deals consisted of permitting the Iranian regime to have access to US dollars by sidestepping sanctions. “The Obama administration misled the American people and Congress because they were desperate to get a deal with Iran,” said Sen. Rob Portman, who chaired the Senate panel that conducted an investigation into the agreement.
Without the knowledge of Congress, the Obama administration also secretly agreed to lift sanctions on several Iranian banks, including Bank Sepah and Sepah International. Another major concession appeared to be that the deal paved the way for Iran to legally become a full-blown nuclear state. The sunset clauses, which enshrined that commitment, set a firm expiration date for the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program, after which the country’s leaders would be free to legitimately have as many nuclear weapons as they liked.
The House members likely want to prevent the Biden administration from making the same mistakes as the Obama administration.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
One important concern about the potential new deal, even though the negotiations have faltered recently, relates to the Biden administration’s reported concession to allow non-Americans to do business with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the State Department. It has been leaked that: “Non-US persons doing business with Iranian persons that are not on the (US sanctions list) will not be exposed to sanctions merely as a result of those Iranian persons engaging in separate transactions involving Iranian persons on the (US sanctions list).”
Such a provision would empower the IRGC financially and allow it to carry out more terrorist attacks abroad, while further suppressing the Iranian people. As the letter by the congressmen and congresswomen accurately noted: “The aforementioned reported provision creates a troubling precedent. We are concerned that it could significantly dilute the effectiveness of terrorism-related sanctions on the IRGC, Iran’s paramilitary terror arm and provides the organization with a pathway for sanctions evasion…. The IRGC has directly, or through its proxies, including Hezbollah, Hamas, Ansar Allah (Houthis), Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and scores of Shiite militias in Iraq, killed hundreds of Americans, and attacked our bases and our allies in the region.”
The other concern is the flow of billions of dollars into the treasury of the Iranian regime. The House members stated that the Biden administration’s new nuclear deal would provide $1 trillion to the Iranian regime over a decade, making the IRGC and its militia and terror groups wealthier and a much larger threat to the national security of the US and its allies, the American people at home and abroad, and the Iranian people.
The Biden administration also seems to be fully trusting Iran’s ally, Russia, to be the only country that oversees its compliance with the nuclear deal and to be the keeper of Iran’s highly enriched uranium. This is why the bipartisan US lawmakers asked the Biden administration “not to permit Russia to be the recipient of Iran’s enriched uranium nor to have the right to conduct nuclear work with Iran, including a $10 billion contract to expand Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.” They went on to urge Biden not to allow Russian President Vladimir Putin to be the guarantor of the deal. “Iran supports the illegal war in Ukraine and has been supplying Russia with drones used to kill Ukrainians,” they wrote.
In a nutshell, it would serve the national interests of the US and its allies if the Biden administration listened to, and worked closely with, Congress to counter the Iranian regime.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist.