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Congress Fires Its Warning Shot on Iran Nuclear Deal

Congress Fires Its Warning Shot on Iran Nuclear Deal

Friday, 6 May, 2022 - 07:00
Senator Ted Cruz during a press conference at the Capitol Hill (AFP)

The US Congress fired a warning shot at the US administration's efforts to return to the nuclear agreement with Iran.

A total of 16 Democrats voted with almost all Republicans to approve Sen. James Lankford's motion, easily clearing the 60-vote threshold to reach 62 senators voting that the US should not lift sanctions on Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Lankford said the Senate sent a clear message "tonight that we do not want the United States to make a nuclear deal with Iran that ignores their past behavior and present intentions."

While Lankford's proposal is non-binding, the vote alters the administration, especially since votes came from the US president's party, reflecting growing opposition to its efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement.

The group of "yes" votes included Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who opposed the 2015 nuclear deal, clearly indicating their dissatisfaction with the progress of the negotiations.

The lawmakers' statements show that they have had it with the administration's insistence on moving forward with the agreement without addressing Iran's destabilizing activities in the region and the White House's willingness to delist the IRGC.

Some Democrats, who had previously refrained from publicly criticizing Biden, are warning him against taking such a step.

Lankford urged his colleagues to vote with the bill, saying that this proposal deals with Iran's terrorist activities and requests to remove the IRGC from terrorist lists during negotiations with the Biden administration.

"The IRGC was attacking our troops in Iraq and facilitating their death," he indicated.

Senator Chris Coons, a top Biden ally, supported the motion to encourage the administration's negotiations to "push for the strongest possible deal that addresses Iran's nuclear weapons program and many other malign activities."

The senators approved another proposal made by Senator Ted Cruz, stressing the need to maintain terrorism-related sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran and the Revolutionary Guards.

The proposal, which 86 members supported, considers maintaining these sanctions necessary to limit cooperation between Iran and China and necessitates submitting a report to the Congress detailing the nature of the collaboration in the fields of energy, infrastructure, economy, finance, and the diplomatic, military, and banking sectors.

"The Biden administration is negotiating to lift terrorism sanctions on the Revolutionary Guards and the Central Bank of Iran," Cruz said while putting the bill to a vote, adding that the "IRGC is responsible for murdering over 600 servicemen and women. The IRGC is actively trying to murder the former Secretary of State and the former security advisor."

Then he concluded, addressing the senators: "If you support terrorism sanctions on the IRGC, you should vote yes, and if you want to lift those sanctions, you should vote no."

Despite the growing opposition in Congress to the administration's efforts to return to the nuclear agreement, lawmakers know that the White House will not seek congressional approval of the deal if it occurs, as did the administration of former President Barack Obama.

However, the administration's position remains oscillating between the possibility of an agreement and other options without specifying them.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said the United States is now preparing equally for both a scenario where there is a mutual return to compliance with Iran on a nuclear deal and one in which there is not an agreement.

"Because a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA is very much an uncertain proposition, we are now preparing equally for either scenario," Price said in a briefing.

A senior Israeli official told the Axios website that Israel and the US are discussing ways to put more pressure on Iran in a scenario where there is no return to the 2015 nuclear deal soon.

He indicated that Israeli national security adviser Eyal Hulata, his US counterpart Jake Sullivan and other senior officials met at the White House last week. The talks primarily focused on Iran, including preparation for a possible reality in which there is no return to the nuclear deal.

The two national security advisers discussed how to do this without pushing Iran to escalate its nuclear program and enrich uranium to 90 percent purity, the level needed to produce a nuclear bomb.

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