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Ukraine Crisis Deepens US Congressional Fears of an Agreement in Vienna

Ukraine Crisis Deepens US Congressional Fears of an Agreement in Vienna

Rana Abtar - Washington
Friday, 25 February, 2022 - 10:30
Deputy Secretary-General of the European External Action Service (EEAS) Enrique Mora and Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani wait for the start of a meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission in Vienna, Austria December 3, 2021. EU Delegation in Vienna/Handout via REUTERS

About 200 Republican lawmakers wrote a letter to US President Joe Biden earlier in February urging him to put any nuclear deal reached with Iran to a vote in Congress.

“We will view any agreement reached in Vienna which is not submitted to the US Senate for ratification as a treaty—including any and all secret agreements made with Iran directly or on the sidelines of official talks—as non-binding,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter dated Feb. 16, 2022.

The lawmakers linked the file of negotiations with Iran and the Ukraine crisis, expressing concern that the United States’ dependence on Russia as a main mediator in the Vienna negotiations had weakened the US position with regards to Moscow’s plans to invade Ukraine.

“If your dependency on the Russians to revive the JCPOA [nuclear deal] is weakening our deterrent posture with the Russians in other areas of the world, the American people deserve to know,” they said, addressing Biden.

In this regard, a source in the US Congress told Asharq Al-Awsat that opponents were increasingly concerned that the Biden Administration would exploit the preoccupation with the Ukrainian crisis to conclude a deal with Tehran.

Similarly, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Menendez, complained that the Ukraine file had distracted his colleagues from the talks with Iran.

In remarks earlier this month, Menendez said that he was “not comfortable” with the lack of attention on Iran, adding that he was “not sure that [his] colleagues are as fully immersed on the challenges of Iran as we speak, as [he] would like them to be.”

These concerns were echoed by Rep. Sen. Lindsey Graham during his visit to Israel last week.

He said that the Iranians' acquisition of a nuclear weapon has more consequences than the Ukraine-Russia conflict. He added that Russia and Ukraine are of great importance, “but Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear capability will change all the rules of the game.”

In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, Jason Brodsky, Policy Director at United Against Nuclear Iran, said that Russia, which used to separate internationally disputed files from efforts to revive the nuclear agreement, might not be able this time to overcome the tension between the negotiating parties, which Iran would exploit to its advantage.

“The invasion of Ukraine will create rifts in Vienna. With the presence of the Russian envoy there, I think that Ukraine will complicate the internal dynamic between the Europeans, the United States and Russia…” he stated.

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