Congressional Republicans are calling the Biden administration’s reported plan to roll back sanctions on Iran before it commits to renewed diplomatic talks an unacceptable concession that will only embolden the hardline regime and reward its bad behavior.
As Iran continues to balk at U.S. proposals for direct negotiations on a deal, the Biden administration is becoming desperate. American officials are now said to be offering Iran immediate relief from tough economic sanctions in exchange for commitments to scale back portions of its nuclear program and halt enriching uranium to levels needed for a weapon, according to Politico. That proposal, Republican foreign policy leaders told the Washington Free Beacon, breaks multiple promises from Secretary of State Antony Blinken to not lift sanctions until Tehran agrees to sit down with the United States and other world powers. Republicans also are learning of the proposal via media reports, highlighting the administration’s continued efforts to conceal its diplomatic pursuits from critics in Congress.
Iran also quickly slapped down the Biden administration’s offer, which is said to include a promise to remove sanctions if Tehran stops enriching uranium to the 20-percent threshold, according to Tuesday reports in the country’s state-controlled press. Iranian leaders maintain that they will not agree to any negotiations until America unwinds all of its sanctions on the country and returns to full compliance with the original 2015 deal, which former president Donald Trump abandoned in 2018.
Iran’s hardline stance—accompanied with a major increase in its nuclear weapons work—is a sign that the regime believes the Biden administration will blink first and agree to full-scale sanctions relief in order to cajole it into talks. The administration has already taken several steps in this direction, including removing United Nations sanctions on Tehran, delisting the Iranian-armed Houthi rebels from terror lists, and rolling back restrictions on Iranian diplomats.
While there is little congressional Republicans can do to stop the Biden administration from granting Iran sanctions relief, they have vowed to interfere in these efforts as much as possible, including by launching multiple probes into the administration’s back-channel efforts to offer Iran concessions. House GOP leaders, for instance, are demanding the State Department provide them with in-depth information about reported talks with South Korea about giving Iran $1 billion in frozen assets, as the Free Beacon first reported last week. The Republican Party’s near-universal opposition to sanctions relief has also sent the message that any concessions granted by the Democratic administration will be immediately rolled back once it leaves office.
"This is a scandal," Rep. Jim Banks (R., Ind.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, told the Free Beacon in response to the Biden administration’s latest proposal to roll back sanctions. "Why is the Biden team giving in to Iran’s nuclear blackmail and rewarding the regime with sanctions relief for its enrichment of uranium by 20 percent? What message does this send to other countries who want to get nuclear weapons?"
Rep. Andy Barr (R., Ky.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the Biden administration’s latest offer to Iran is "troubling and bewildering."
"This decision would threaten American and Israeli national security, undermine our alliance with Israel and reward the largest state sponsor of terrorism with billions of dollars for them to reinvest in military weaponry and proxies to kill American service-members and our allies abroad," Barr told the Free Beacon.
Reps. Joe Wilson (R., S.C.) and Bryan Steil (R., Wis.), also members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee who have emerged as leading opponents of the Biden administration’s outreach to Iran, said the Biden administration is rewarding Iran’s bad behavior without obtaining assurances it will stop building nuclear weapons.
"This is outrageous, and I hope this report is not true," Wilson said.
"Lifting sanctions on the Iranian regime in order to return to the failed Iran Nuclear Deal is bad policy," said Steil. "Lifting sanctions on the regime to get them to the negotiating table is even worse."
A senior Biden official, speaking on background, told the Free Beacon the administration does not comment on details of diplomatic conversations, but "we have been clear that we are ready to pursue a mutual return to the JCPOA." The official added, "We have also been open that we are talking with our partners in the P5+1 and elsewhere about the best way to achieve this, including through a series of initial, mutual steps. We have been looking at options for doing so, including with indirect conversations through our European partners."
Iranian leaders say the Biden administration’s rumored offer is dead on arrival.
One senior Iranian official told Press TV, a media outlet controlled by the hardline regime, that "Tehran will stop its 20-percent uranium enrichment only if the U.S. lifts all [of] its sanctions on Iran first."
Iran plans to "further reduce its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal if the U.S. does not lift all sanctions," the official said, adding that America is "running out of time."
Iran’s permanent mission to the U.N. made similar comments on Twitter.
"No proposal is needed for the US to rejoin the [nuclear deal]," the delegation wrote. "It only requires a political decision by the U.S. to fully and immediately implement all of its obligations under the accord and abide by UNSCR 2231," the U.N. resolution that formally codified the Iran deal.