Congress Wants Access to Iran Nuclear Deal Docs

New measures would compel release of nuclear deal negotiations, including possible side deal

U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) speaks on Iran negotiations at a news conference on Capitol Hill, April 06, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
September 19, 2022

Congressional Republicans are moving to compel the Biden administration to release details of its nuclear deal negotiations with Iran, including any side deals that could provide the hardline regime with access to billions of dollars in cash.

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R., N.C.) and 20 Republican colleagues are spearheading a legislative measure that would force the Biden administration to submit to Congress all documents "relating to any initiative or negotiations regarding Iran’s nuclear program," according to a copy of the legislation.

In addition to forcing the release of the deal itself, the measure would expose any side deals that are being negotiated as part of the accord, according to sources familiar with the bill. This requirement was included as a result of the Obama administration’s decision to airlift Iran $400 million in cash in 2015 as part of a secret side agreement with Tehran that only became public knowledge after a Wall Street Journal exposé.

Foxx’s measure is likely to garner widespread Republican support and attract some Democrats who have become frustrated with the ongoing negotiations. If passed, Congress would be permitted to access "copies of any document, memorandum, or other communication in [the president’s] possession, or any portion thereof, that refers or relates to any initiative or negotiations regarding Iran’s nuclear program," according to the measure. The measure comes amid a push by a bipartisan group of lawmakers who wrote to the White House this month demanding it "not to return to any deal with Iran prior to releasing the full text of the agreement and any side agreements to Congress."

While the Biden administration is required by law to submit any new deal to Congress for review, there are concerns the White House will find ways to circumvent this law, known as the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 (INARA). That law was overwhelmingly passed by Congress after the Obama administration bypassed the legislative body to unilaterally approve the deal, which provided Iran with billions in cash windfalls.

Already, the Biden administration is expected to immediately provide Iran with up to $7 billion in cash the day the deal is signed, the Washington Free Beacon reported earlier this month. That money could be unfrozen by the administration before Congress has a chance to review the agreement.

Foxx told the Free Beacon that Congress must exercise its oversight authority and needs to be fully briefed on all aspects of the deal, including any secret arrangements negotiated on the sidelines of formal talks.

"Pursuant to INARA, the administration is required to keep Congress ‘fully and currently informed’ of any new or amended agreement with Iran—it’s already settled law signed by former President Obama and supported by Democrats," Foxx said. "Congress has a mandate to exercise its explicit oversight authorities to hold the Biden administration accountable. We cannot let accountability and transparency become relics of a bygone era."

While the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which oversees legislation of this sort, did not fast track the legislation for a full vote in the House, the committee’s Democrat chairman, Gregory Meeks, confirmed during debate on the measure that the Biden administration has committed to upholding INARA and giving Congress a vote. Congressional sources familiar with the matter told the Free Beacon that Foxx’s resolution is just one part of the Republican push to ensure that Biden consults with Congress on any final agreement.

Democratic and Republican foreign policy leaders in Congress have been pressuring the Biden administration to provide assurances that any new deal is presented to the legislative branch.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D., N.J.) and seven other Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee recently penned a letter to President Joe Biden asking that he "provide Congress with the full text of any proposal to rejoin the Iran nuclear agreement."

"We are deeply concerned about multiple provisions that reportedly may be contained in the final language of any agreement with the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism," states Gottheimer’s letter, which was signed by 49 other lawmakers.

Rumored provisions currently included in the draft proposal have fueled concerns that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), a sanctioned terror group responsible for killing Americans, would be awarded a pathway to skirt U.S. sanctions.

Gottheimer and his colleagues remain concerned the new deal "could significantly dilute the effectiveness of terrorism-related sanctions on the IRGC, Iran’s paramilitary terror arm, and provides the organization with a pathway for sanctions evasion." The lawmakers also urged the Biden administration to remove provisions of the deal that would allow Russia to cash in on some $10 billion in nuclear contracts with Iran.

"We urge you not to return to any deal with Iran prior to releasing the full text of the agreement and any side agreements to Congress, to provide us with an in-depth briefing on the matter, and to consult with all key stakeholders," the Gottheimer letter states.