The Biden administration said Thursday evening that it is ready to begin conducting diplomacy with Iran, an announcement that has rankled Iran hawks in and out of Congress who see the new White House as rushing into talks with a regime that continues to sponsor terror attacks against U.S. forces and build its nuclear weapons program.
"The United States would accept an invitation from the European Union High Representative to attend a meeting of the P5+1 and Iran to discuss a diplomatic way forward on Iran’s nuclear program," State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement to the Washington Free Beacon, confirming reports from earlier in the day indicating the United States would sit down with Tehran and European nations still party to the nuclear agreement.
The Biden administration's desire for talks marks a departure from its early rhetoric on the Iran deal. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other senior State Department officials have publicly stated that Iran must cease its enrichment of uranium, the key component in a nuclear weapon, and come back into compliance with the 2015 accord if it is to be granted relief from U.S. sanctions. Iran is likely to press this demand in any negotiations with the United States, European powers, China, and Russia. While the United States pulled out of the deal in 2018, all of these countries still remain committed to the accord.
The announcement was not well received by Republican foreign policy leaders in and outside of Congress who fear the Biden administration is on the path to providing Iran with sanctions relief and concessions in return for little or no shift in its nuclear program and support for terrorism.
Former secretary of state Mike Pompeo told the Free Beacon that European nations "wanted to appease the Iranian theocracy for my entire time as secretary of state. We refused. The ayatollah understands only strength. I led a response to the Iranian threat that protected the American people from its terror and supported the Jewish state of Israel."
"Adopting the European Union model of accommodation," Pompeo said, "will guarantee Iran a path to a nuclear arsenal."
Rep. Michael McCaul (Texas), lead Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he is concerned the Biden administration is "already making concessions in an apparent attempt to re-enter the flawed Iran deal."
While the Trump administration attempted to force Iran to the bargaining table by crushing the regime with sanctions, President Joe Biden's State Department is signaling it will switch its strategy.
"We need to secure a better deal that keeps the American people safe from the full range of Iran’s malign threats," McCaul said, adding that the Biden administration should keep its promise not to reenter any deal until Iran comes back into full compliance.
Iran is breaching the deal in increasingly aggressive ways. It has stockpiled large amounts of highly enriched uranium, installed advanced nuclear centrifuges, and is on pace to further restrict access to its nuclear sites, preventing the International Atomic Energy Agency from performing critical oversight.