Iran should consider any nuclear deal inked by the Biden administration as dead on arrival when Republicans retake control of Congress, the party's foreign policy leaders told the Washington Free Beacon.
President Joe Biden promised Iran this week that the United States will not pull out of any new nuclear agreement reached between the countries and that all sanctions relief granted as part of that deal will be permanent. Republican leaders, speaking to the Free Beacon, said they want to send Iran a direct message: Biden has no power to promise that sanctions will be lifted forever.
Biden, in a joint statement with Germany, France, and the United Kingdom issued this week during G20 meetings in Europe, pledged that the United States will remain in the nuclear deal permanently, as long as Tehran upholds its commitments under a revamped accord. European powers said they "welcome President Biden's clearly demonstrated commitment to return the U.S. to full compliance with the [nuclear deal] and to stay in full compliance." Biden and European leaders also committed to "provide sanctions lifting with long-lasting implications for Iran's economic growth."
Republican congressional leaders told the Free Beacon that the president has no legal authority to speak for Congress, which will not be bound by an executive agreement unilaterally reached between the administration and Iran. Sanctions, they added, are controlled by Congress, and Republicans will do all they can to ensure such crippling measures are put back in place. With Democrats enjoying a slim majority in both the House and Senate—and the Biden administration's popularity plunging ahead of the 2022 midterm elections—the Republican Party's focus on Iran could make the hardline government think twice about reentering an agreement that could be void within a year.
"The thugs in Tehran better be on watch: Any sanctions relief pledged by the Biden team is not a foregone conclusion," Rep. Jim Banks (R., Ind.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee and chair of the Republican Study Committee, the largest caucus of Republicans in Congress, told the Free Beacon.
Rep. Joe Wilson (R., S.C.), an RSC national security task force leader and House Foreign Affairs Committee member, told the Free Beacon that Biden's pledge to Iran is meaningless.
"President Biden does not have the authority to speak for Congress, and Congress is not bound by an executive agreement," Wilson said. "The Republican Study Committee has made it clear that when we retake the majority, we will work to reimpose all sanctions on Iran lifted by the Biden administration, whether as part of reentering the failed Iran deal or any other deal with Iran."
Republicans in Congress have been laying the groundwork to stop sanctions relief for Iran since February, when the Biden administration first announced it was negotiating a U.S. return to the nuclear deal, which the Trump administration walked away from in 2018. This has included a legislative push to codify the former administration's crippling sanctions regime. That bill, known as the Maximum Pressure Act, already has the support of 109 members of the House, a majority of the Republican conference.
Banks, who is leading the charge in his role as RSC chairman, said "everyone should know this is a completely empty pledge" by Biden.
"Congress has the final say over when and how sanctions are lifted or reapplied," Banks said. "Biden's empty pledge cannot belie his administration's eagerness to give Iran massive sanctions relief in exchange for a worthless nuclear deal, given its sunset clauses, approaching expiration date, in addition to Iran's irreversible nuclear know-how."
Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas), a staunch opponent of the nuclear deal, also blasted Biden's pledge, saying "a future GOP president will tear up any Iran deal that isn't a treaty."
Iranian leaders appear to be aware that the Biden administration cannot promise permanent sanctions relief, or even a new deal. Tehran walked away from negotiations months ago and has only tentatively agreed to return to talks, even as the Biden administration promised to unwind every sanction imposed by the former Republican administration.
Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, a ruling body that holds great power over the country's policies, said on Wednesday that "the U.S. president has no authority [and] is not willing to provide any guarantees [the United States will not leave the JCPOA again]," according to comments in the nation's state-controlled press.