In a letter exclusively obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, a Republican member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee is demanding the Biden administration provide Congress with answers about U.S.-Iran envoy Robert Malley's undisclosed talks earlier this month with China about rejoining the 2015 nuclear accord.
Rep. Tim Burchett (R., Tenn.) petitioned the State Department on Thursday to come clean about Malley's talks with China, which came just before the Biden administration announced it is seeking direct negotiations with Iran about rejoining the nuclear accord. Burchett says the administration's refusal to provide Congress with details about Malley's discussions indicates that it is intentionally leaving Republican lawmakers in the dark about its bid to rejoin the nuclear agreement.
Malley has yet to brief top Republican foreign policy leaders, including those on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Senate Armed Services Committee, about the administration's diplomacy with Iran, the Free Beacon reported this week.
"I find it troubling that the Biden Department of State is reaching out to foreign governments regarding the [nuclear deal] while you yourself have said that the Department of State won't make diplomatic overtures to the Iranians until they fall back into compliance within the original parameters of the deal," Burchett wrote in his letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Chinese vice foreign minister Ma Zhaoxu "had a phone conversation with U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley at the latter's request, and the two sides had an in-depth exchange of views on the Iranian nuclear issue," China's foreign ministry announced two weeks ago. The State Department initially refused to provide any information about the call or even confirm that it happened when approached by the Free Beacon. Since then, the State Department has brushed off questions from reporters asking about the contents of the call.
Burchett is demanding answers, writing that efforts to hide Malley's talks with China "give me great concern over transparency at the Department of State." He added that the Communist Party is "untrustworthy and one of the last entities we should be consulting regarding Iran's nuclear capabilities."
The lawmaker is further demanding the State Department disclose what exactly was discussed between Malley and Ma, and whether the Iran envoy has held any other talks with foreign diplomats "that have not been disclosed to the public."
Burchett, like other GOP foreign policy committee members, wants the Biden administration to say whether it will "consult Congress before taking foreign policy action."
Republicans say the administration appears poised to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal—providing Iran with potentially billions in cash windfalls and sanctions relief—without informing Congress about its diplomatic efforts. The Obama administration employed a similar tactic when it was negotiating the deal, which was never authorized by Congress.
Republicans also see the administration as rushing into negotiations with Tehran at a time when it continues to organize terror attacks on U.S. forces in the region. The Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, for instance, struck American and Saudi Arabian positions just days after the Biden administration removed the group from the U.S. terrorism list.
The Biden administration has already informed the United Nations it is withdrawing the Trump administration's decision to reimpose all international sanctions on Iran, paving the way for a ban on Iranian arms sales to expire. This will permit countries like China and Russia to legally arm Iran. It also eased restrictions on Iranian officials at the U.N. building in New York City, another move seen as part of a package of concessions meant to entice Iran back to the bargaining table.
"I do not believe that sanctions relief makes sense when the regime uses extremist groups like Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Katib Hezbollah, and the Houthis to export their terror from the Levant to Iraq and Yemen, respectively," Burchett wrote.