House Republicans cite 2015 regulation mandating congressional evaluation of any Iran nuclear deal

A bunch of Republicans within the House of Representatives is demanding the Biden administration have Congress evaluation and assess any new nuclear cope with Iran, citing a 2015 regulation. 

Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas and different Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee wrote US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday. 

“We are writing to remind you of the Administration’s statutory obligations to provide Congress with an opportunity to review and assess any nuclear agreement that you reach with Iran,” they wrote within the letter. 

US officers are negotiating a attainable return to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), extra generally generally known as the Iran nuclear deal. The settlement, which got here into impact underneath President Barack Obama, eliminated worldwide sanctions on Iran in change for Tehran scaling again its nuclear program. Former US President Donald Trump withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018 and reimposed sanctions. President Joe Biden is now looking for a possible return to the deal. Indirect talks between the United States and Iran in Vienna have been ongoing since April.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee Republicans’ letter centered on the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015. This regulation requires the president to submit any nuclear-related settlement with Iran to Congress for evaluation inside 5 days. The regulation additionally says the president should inform Congress each 90 days that Iran is complying with the deal and supply a certification that the settlement has a framework to stop Iran’s nuclear program from changing into a safety risk, amongst different stipulations. 

Any US return to the JCPOA would represent a brand new settlement in want of congressional evaluation due to adjustments to the standing of Iran’s nuclear program since 2015, the Republicans wrote. To this finish, they cited Blinken’s feedback to Congress final week that Iran’s nuclear capabilities are “galloping forward” in addition to Iran’s present uranium enrichment ranges and different JCPOA violations. Iran is at the moment enriching uranium, which is required to develop nuclear energy, at 60% purity, which is effectively above the three.67% restrict set by the JCPOA. 

“These violations make it impossible to simply ‘return’ to the JCPOA, because Iran’s non-compliance has changed the deal itself,” wrote the lawmakers. 

The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act may complicate Biden’s efforts to revive the JCPOA, in response to former Bush administration official Stephen Rademaker. Both the Senate and the House would have the chance to reject a brand new settlement on a JCPOA return. If they vote in opposition to it, the administration would both have to defy the evaluation act or unilaterally carry sanctions and belief Iran to then return to compliance, he wrote in RealClear World in March. According to the act, if each chambers go a decision to disapprove of the deal, “the president cannot provide sanctions to relief to Iran for 12 days after the resolution’s passage. If the president vetoes the resolution of disapproval, he cannot lift sanctions for 10 days following the veto. 

Congress has the option to force votes on reimposing sanctions at the end of the 90-day periods if they do not receive a certification from the president, per the review act. This could lead to continued pressure on any Biden administration deal with the Islamic Republic, according to Rademaker. 

“Some in Congress are sure to call for reimposition of U.S. sanctions if Biden’s policy does not produce obvious results, and INARA will give them a mechanism to force the issue to a vote,” he wrote. 

A return to the JCPOA as it existed in 2015 is sure to run into opposition in Congress. Earlier this month, Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post arguing for a broader Iran nuclear deal that would also curb Iran’s regional and security policies. This built on a March letter they wrote to Biden, which argued for a brand new Iran nuclear deal that will additionally restrict Iran’s assist for proxy teams within the Middle East and its ballistics missile program

One Iran analyst said that how Biden approaches the deal will determine how it is received by Congress. Republicans will not be satisfied if the talks in Vienna only yield Iranian compliance with the JCPOA in exchange for the removal of sanctions, said senior Middle East analyst Jason Brodsky of Iran International TV. 

“The Biden administration has an opportunity to create a more durable Iran policy — one that has buy-in from Democrats and Republicans,” Brodsky told Al-Monitor on Tuesday. “But if the result in Vienna is indeed mere mutual compliance-for-compliance, they will be alienating Republicans right out of the gate and risk inflaming the partisan divide on the issue even further.”

Blinken testified earlier than the Senate Foreign Relations Committee final week and mentioned that returning Iran to compliance with the JCPOA can be a “first step, not a last step.” This may point out the administration is keen to construct on the unique deal into one thing extra complete and Blinken has promised to create a “stronger” deal than the one in 2015. 

Brodsky mentioned {that a} future president may once more tear up the deal if it isn’t strengthened. 

“Menendez is already expressing frustration that the administration has not defined how it will get from the JCPOA to a longer and stronger deal as it pledged,” he mentioned. “Without one, the administration is paving the way for a future president to withdraw, as history has shown.”

The White House and the State Department didn’t instantly reply to Al-Monitor’s requests for touch upon the House Republicans’ letter and the evaluation act’s standing. There may very well be a political battle if the Biden administration decides any future Iran deal shouldn’t be lined by the regulation. 

“This most recent letter from House Republicans is firing a warning shot, and we may even see a legal challenge if the administration decides to circumvent Congress by just arguing it’s mutual compliance-for-compliance and not covered by” the evaluation act, Brodsky mentioned. 

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