Even as Moscow invades Ukraine, the Biden administration is relying on Russia to solidify a revamped nuclear agreement with Iran, a deal that senior Republican foreign policy leaders say will be approved in the coming days without any input from Congress.
As Russian forces press further into Ukraine, threatening to spark a world war, the Biden administration is rushing to finalize a Russia-brokered nuclear deal with Iran, Rep. Michael McCaul (R., Texas), the lead Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told the Washington Free Beacon.
"Russia's further invasion of Ukraine is reprehensible, but we can't lose sight of the next national security crisis as it forms before our eyes: The Biden administration is reportedly rushing to finalize a deal with Iran, brokered by Russia, that it does not want Congress to review, in violation of U.S. law," McCaul said.
Throughout the conflict, the Biden administration has kept diplomatic channels with Moscow open in the hopes it can push Iran into accepting a deal that will provide the world's leading sponsor of terrorism with billions of dollars in cash windfalls.
McCaul and other Republican foreign policy leaders who spoke to the Free Beacon about the situation warned that this reliance on Moscow is undermining American and European efforts to isolate Russian president Vladimir Putin for his unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. These lawmakers say the conflict threatens to distract attention from negotiations surrounding a new nuclear deal, providing the Biden administration with an opportunity to skirt congressional review of any deal.
"Congressional review of any Iran nuclear deal was enacted with broad bipartisan support to ensure legislative oversight of any dealings regarding the nuclear program of the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism," McCaul said. "If the administration circumvents Congress, that is a blinking red light for the American people that this is a bad deal."
Congressional Republicans stand mostly united in opposition to a new deal and have warned the Biden administration that if it signs an agreement without first consulting Congress, as required by law, that deal—and sanctions relief included within it—will be dead on arrival.
"This is a Reagan moment for our country, but we have a Carter president in the White House," Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), also a House Foreign Affairs Committee member, told the Free Beacon. "The Biden Doctrine for foreign policy is acquiesce to our enemies and hope for the best. It's bound to fail everywhere it's been tried."
While President Joe Biden has vowed to break relations with Russia as a result of its Ukraine invasion, the reliance on Moscow in Iran talks signals that these promises will not be enforced.
"It's obvious that Russia should no longer serve as one of the key intermediaries brokering an Iran deal," said one senior congressional official who works on foreign policy matters. "We need to be isolating Russia not just economically, but also diplomatically. There is absolutely no chance that Russia has U.S. national security interests in mind when it comes to Iran's nuclear program."
Reports in the Iranian state-controlled press indicate that the United States is inching closer to giving the regime everything it wants, including full-scale sanctions relief in exchange for minimal restrictions on the country's nuclear program.
In one major concession, the United States is reportedly allowing Iran to keep its advanced nuclear centrifuges, which are capable of quickly enriching uranium, the key component in an atomic bomb, to levels needed to power a weapon. Initially, the West was pressing for Iran to destroy these centrifuges to prevent Tehran from getting within reach of a bomb.
The Biden administration earlier this month also preemptively waived some sanctions on Iran as part of its bid to generate good will in the talks. These sanction waivers allow countries like Russia and China to legally build out portions of Iran's civilian nuclear program.
Still, Iranian diplomats want more. "Negotiations are not over yet, and the United States has to make tough political decisions that it has not yet made," Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian was quoted as saying Monday in the country's state-controlled press.
These concessions, which show that the United States has moved much further toward Iran's negotiating position in the year since diplomacy started, highlight the need for Congress to legally review the deal.
"Congress needs be involved in any potential Iran nuclear deal to prevent President Biden from blundering his way into yet another foreign policy screw up," Rep. Tim Burchett (R., Tenn.), another House Foreign Affairs Committee member, told the Free Beacon. "This administration's track record handling our adversaries isn't exactly great."
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R., N.Y.) expressed similar concerns and told the Free Beacon he is certain that Biden will employ President Barack Obama's playbook—which included circumventing Congress to ink a deal with Iran that was ultimately non-binding.
"If Biden rejoins the Iran Deal without submitting it to Congress as a treaty and receiving two-thirds approval from the Senate, this agreement will be just as non-binding as the JCPOA was originally in 2015," Zeldin said, using the Obama-era Iran deal's formal acronym. "Between greenlighting Russia's Nord Stream 2 pipeline, failing to level sanctions on China for importing Iranian oil, and his desperation to rejoin the JCPOA, despite Iran possibly closing in on nuclear capabilities, Biden has repeatedly let down our allies and kowtowed to our adversaries on the world stage."