A group of Republican lawmakers is petitioning the House Foreign Affairs Committee to organize hearings on "Iran’s nuclear program, their support for terrorism, and their attempts to intimidate our allies," citing the Islamic Republic’s revamped march toward a nuclear weapon.
In a letter sent on Wednesday to leaders on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the lawmakers, led by Rep. Bryan Steil (R., Wis.), petitioned the committee’s leadership to probe Iran’s recent moves to enrich uranium to levels needed to power a nuclear weapon. Congress, they say, must "review existing policies and programs designed to counter the full range of Iranian threats," according to a copy of the letter obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. The House has not held a hearing on Iran’s nuclear program since February 2020, when lawmakers were briefed on general developments in the region.
The letter—signed by Steil and Reps. Dan Crenshaw (R., Texas), Paul Gosar (R., Ariz.), and Joe Wilson (R., S.C.), chairman of the Republican Study Committee's National Security and Foreign Affairs Task Force—comes as the Biden administration gears up to reengage in diplomacy with Iran in pursuit of a revamped nuclear deal. The lawmakers say they are concerned the Democratic administration will grant Iran significant sanctions relief as part of an effort to entice it back to the bargaining table. Such concessions would reward Iran at a time when it is believed to be just months away from building a nuclear weapon.
Iran has been systematically violating the 2015 accord in an effort to pressure Western nations into granting it sanctions relief. The United States left the accord in 2018, but it is still being implemented by European nations, Russia, and China. While the Biden administration maintains it will not negotiate with Iran until it recommits to its obligations under the deal, GOP lawmakers fear the desire for diplomacy could lead to dangerous concessions by the United States that will revitalize Iran’s economy.
"Congress needs to examine our policies to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power and ensure the Biden administration does not squander President Trump’s successful maximum pressure campaign," Steil said in a statement. "The United States cannot return to the days of sending pallets of cash to Iran’s leaders, supporting Iran’s pursuit of terrorism, and allowing the regime to continue its nuclear buildup."
The lawmakers cite Iran’s uranium enrichment at an underground military bunker in Fordow, its recent seizure of a South Korean oil tanker, and its cyber attacks on Israel as pressing topics that demand immediate congressional oversight. Public and potentially classified briefings could galvanize Iran hawks to more forcefully push back against the Biden administration’s overtures to Iran.
"Given the ongoing threats posed by the Iranian regime to U.S. national security and the security of our allies, it is critical that a hearing be held to address these issues," Wilson said in a statement. "Their chants of ‘death to Israel and death to America' must be met with resolute action."
Iran announced this week that it intends to install advanced centrifuges to quicken the country’s uranium enrichment program. Iran also has signaled that it will further restrict access to nuclear inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, a move that would limit U.S. and Western nations’ oversight on the country’s program.
Meanwhile, Biden administration Iran envoy Robert Malley is already laying the groundwork for diplomacy. He spoke to Chinese government leaders about the matter last week, and the State Department told the Free Beacon on Thursday that Malley "has been in ongoing consultations with members of Congress, allies, partners, and others, including JCPOA participants," according to a spokesman, who referred to the nuclear deal by its acronym.