The top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee is calling on President Biden to conduct a review of individuals sanctioned by the U.S. for their contributions to Iran‘s ballistic missile program and state-sponsored terrorism apparatus.
Rep. Michael T. McCaul of Texas said the congressionally-mandated review of the lists must be conducted before lifting any sanctions as part of a new Iran nuclear deal.
In a letter to Mr. Biden obtained by The Washington Times, Mr. McCaul said the administration needs to have a clear understanding of the full scope of Iran‘s malign network before easing pressure on Tehran.
“Reports indicate that you and your team are considering significant sanctions relief related to Iran‘s malign activities to reach a nuclear deal with Iran,” Mr. McCaul wrote. “It would be irresponsible and dangerous to lift sanctions related to Iran‘s malign activities without first having a full understanding of the reach of Iran‘s threat networks and the regime’s enablers.”
Under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which Congress passed in 2017, the administration is required to review all persons listed as specially designated nationals or blocked persons for their support to Iran every five years. The administration’s deadline for completing the review is Aug. 2.
The administration has been mired in months of stalled negotiations with Tehran over restoring the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, meant to shorten Iran‘s strides toward nuclear armament.
President Trump withdrew from the agreement in 2018 and reimposed sanctions that had been lifted as part of the Obama-era accord.
Tehran has demanded that the administration again remove sanctions as stipulated in the original deal in exchange for curbing its current nuclear program. Iran also demanded that the administration remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have eyed the administration’s attempts to reenter the deal with skepticism and have criticized the administration for keeping details of the negotiations close to the vest.
Mr. McCaul has led the chorus of Republicans opposed to reentering the deal, arguing that it would not stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon and that Iran‘s violations of previous agreements should bar any further negotiations.
GOP lawmakers are especially opposed to lifting sanctions.
But Republicans are far from the only party concerned with the deal.
At a Capitol Hill hearing Tuesday, both the Democratic chairman and ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee told Secretary of State Antony Blinken that the deal wouldn’t curb Iran‘s nuclear ambitions nor its destabilizing actions in the region.
“You can see there is little if any daylight between myself and the Chairman on this issue,” said Sen. James E. Risch of Idaho, the ranking Republican. “I think he has stated for you as clearly and concisely as he can the lack of benefits of entering into an agreement at this point in time, particularly as it relates to the bad activities of Iran aside from its nuclear ambitions.”
Sen. Robert Menendez, the New Jersey Democrat who chairs the committee, prodded Mr. Blinken to hold an open hearing on the negotiations before the Senate’s Memorial Day recess.
Mr. Blinken said that reentering the deal remains the best way forward.
“We continue to believe that getting back into compliance with the agreement would be the best way to address the nuclear challenge posed by Iran, and to make sure that an Iran that is already acting with incredible aggression doesn’t have a nuclear weapon or an ability to produce one on such short notice,” he said.
In his letter to President Biden on Wednesday, Mr. McCaul requested confirmation of the administration’s sanctions review and any waiver determinations as soon as possible ahead of the August deadline.