Republicans in Congress are renewing pressure on the Biden administration to abandon its diplomacy with Iran following Tehran's recent drone strike on a U.S. military outpost in Syria, according to a letter sent Thursday to the White House.
Seventeen Republican members of Congress, led by Rep. Bryan Steil (Wis.), accused the Biden administration of ignoring Iran's increasingly aggressive attacks on the United States and its allies in the Middle East to secure a revamped version of the 2015 nuclear accord. As negotiations between Iran and U.S. diplomats stall amid Tehran's demands for full-scale relief from economic sanctions, the Islamic Republic has stepped up its regional terrorist enterprise.
"During a time of heightened tensions in the Middle East, it sends a dangerous message to our friends and adversaries that we continue to lift sanctions and negotiate with the largest state sponsor of terrorism as they attack us," the lawmakers wrote in the letter, which was obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. "This attack is yet another reminder that your administration is setting the wrong priorities by working to re-enter the Iran nuclear deal. If Iran is willing to engage in this kind of behavior while negotiations are still ongoing, imagine the respect they will have for any agreement once the ink is dry."
U.S. military officials say Iran was behind a "complex, coordinated and deliberate attack" late last month on an American military outpost in Syria, where U.S. troops are stationed. Several drones carrying explosives struck the military site, though no casualties were reported. Iran has been behind a string of drone strikes on American, Israeli, and other allied positions in the region.
The Biden administration did not publicly respond to the strike or announce any operations aimed at countering Iranian aggression. The administration's decision to avoid agitating Iran in the wake of the strike has prompted accusations that the United States is looking the other way as it scrambles to ink a nuclear deal with Tehran. As Biden's diplomats promise to waive crippling economic sanctions on the country—including those that target Iran's support for terrorist proxy groups—Republicans are increasingly concerned the Islamic Republic will become more emboldened.
In addition to Steil, the letter was signed by Republican representatives Dan Crenshaw (Texas), Randy Weber (Texas), Brian Babin (Texas), Doug Lamborn (Colo.), Tracey Mann (Kan.), and Vicky Hartzler (Mo.), among others.
The drone strike came just weeks before Iran sent several drones toward a U.S. naval vessel that was operating in the Persian Gulf. Iran says it prevented the United States from interfering in its seizure of an oil tanker.
"We have continued to watch Iran attack U.S. troops and our allies in the Middle East, while increasing its nuclear activities," the lawmakers wrote. "These threats are ongoing, and your administration continues to weaken our ability to combat the Iranian regime by lifting U.S. sanctions."
Steil, speaking to the Free Beacon about the letter, said the Biden administration's singular focus on its diplomacy with Iran sets "the wrong priorities" for America.
"This administration is weakening our ability to combat the regime, and is increasing already heightened tensions in the Middle East," Steil said. "We must hold Iran accountable, and ensure we are protecting Americans, our troops, and civilians in the region."