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Last week, the Biden administration gave Iran what it wanted. Without consulting Congress, the administration lifted sanctions on multiple former Iranian officials and businesses, thereby relaxing U.S. pressure on the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.
Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee weren’t amused. On the contrary, they continue to assert that the administration chose not to consult Congress about the lifted sanctions in order to intentionally bypass legislative oversight. These Republicans are now demanding an explanation.
The State Department announced the sanctions were lifted “as a result of a verified change in status or behavior on the part of the sanctioned parties” and that “[t]hese actions demonstrate [America’s] commitment to lifting sanctions in the event of a change in status or behavior by sanctioned persons.” The Treasury Department echoed this announcement. Meanwhile, the State Department imposed new sanctions on “an Iranian-backed supply network” to the Houthi terrorists in Yemen.
While the Biden administration contends that the lifted sanctions are unrelated to continued negotiations with the Iranian regime in Vienna, Rep. Claudia Tenney and some of her colleagues say the Biden administration is lying. They demand that the State Department share its internal plans.
Tenney and some colleagues on the House Foreign Affairs Committee are so concerned by the Biden administration’s handling of U.S.-Iran relations that they initiated a congressional review on Thursday. The Washington Free Beacon notes this review “could unearth evidence [that] the State Department lifted sanctions as part of a package of concessions meant to appease Iranian officials, as U.S. diplomats negotiate a revamped nuclear agreement with Tehran.”
The Washington Free Beacon proceeds to write that the Biden administration is struggling to productively negotiate with Tehran, leading to potentially desperate measures: “While senior Biden administration officials initially vowed to keep [the Trump administration’s] sanctions in place until Iran agreed to a stricter nuclear agreement, the administration has moved in recent months to relax pressure to keep Iran at the bargaining table.” Moreover, “Talks in Vienna have largely stalled over Iran’s refusal to roll back portions of its nuclear program.”
In the congressional correspondence obtained exclusively by the Washington Free Beacon, Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee address Secretary of State Antony Blinken to “express [their] serious concern” regarding the lifted sanctions. They emphasize that Iran “continues to hold American citizens hostage, expand its nuclear enrichment program, and export terrorism across the region.”
These Republicans remind the Biden administration that it promised to consult Congress about U.S.-Iran policies, but has failed to do so.
In the letter, Republicans also remind the administration that it promised it wouldn’t reward Iran with concessions until the regime came into full compliance with the original 2015 nuclear accord. Today, the regime remains non-compliant and “has … increased its stockpile of enriched uranium to 60%,” which is near the quantity required for an atomic weapon.
Iran also continues to fund regional terrorist groups like Hamas. Iran sanctions have nonetheless been lifted by the Biden administration.
The @StateDept said it would maintain pressure on Iran. Now the Biden Admin is prioritizing sanctions relief for the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism.
— Congresswoman Tenney (@RepTenney) June 17, 2021
In their congressional correspondence, members of the GOP pose numerous questions of concern to the administration. “Why were committee members not made aware in advance of these high-profile delistings of Iranian targets?” they ask Blinken. “Furthermore, why did you fail to inform either the House Foreign Affairs Committee or the Senate Foreign Relations Committee of this pending action when you testified before these committees on June 7 and June 8, respectively?”
“Given that Iran continues to support terrorism in the region, expand its nuclear program, and violate U.S. sanctions on exports of oil and petrochemicals, why have the Departments of State and the Treasury made the decision to prioritize the removal of Iranian sanctions violators over other competing priorities?” GOP members add. They demand answers, as well as detailed information concerning any inter-administration discussions about the lifted sanctions.
It frequently takes weeks or even months for sanctions to be reprieved, and the Biden administration’s justifications for expediting the process remain unclear. The Washington Free Beacon notes that members of the GOP “demand the State Department prove these sanctions were not lifted as part of a behind-the-scenes bid to push negotiations over a deal further along.”
Members of the GOP assert “that only a policy of strength and moral clarity toward the brutal regime in Iran will advance America’s interests.” “We already have grave concerns about this [a]dministration’s willingness to chase these terrorist mullahs around the world begging them to reenter a flawed deal,” they write. “Now we are even more concerned that [the administration is] walking back [its] commitment to hold firm on existing sanctions until a new deal is reached and Iran reverses its nuclear program.”
While the House Foreign Affairs Committee probes this issue, the Republican Study Committee has also spearheaded a parallel investigation.