April 06, 2021
U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), lead Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), lead Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, and Todd Young (R-Ind.), lead Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism, today sent a letter to President Joe Biden urging his administration to “reset its approach” to Iran following news that the United States may relinquish sanctions leverage over the Iranian regime in exchange for a return to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
“We are deeply troubled by recent news reports that the United States may soon remove sanctions on Iran in order to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” the senators wrote. “We oppose any attempt to return to the failed [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action], or any deal that offers one-sided concessions to the Iranian regime while it continues to undermine the security of the United States and our allies and partners.
“We hope to work with you on a path forward that prevents Iran from possessing nuclear weapons capabilities, addresses support for terrorism, holds the regime accountable for its egregious human rights violations, and ends its hostage-taking of American citizens,” the senators continued.
This letter follows a separate letter sent February 26 from top Senate Republicans, including Sens. Inhofe, Rubio, and Toomey, along with Sens. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, urging President Biden “not to repeat past mistakes” with Iran, and outlining Republican policy on effectively addressing the challenge posed by Iran.
The full text of the April 6 letter follows:
Dear Mr. President:
We are deeply troubled by recent news reports that the United States may soon remove sanctions on Iran in order to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). In light of today’s talks in Vienna, and any future negotiations that may follow, we urge you to adhere to the principles outlined in the February 26, 2021, letter sent to you by five Republican Senate ranking members.
The United States must not relinquish its leverage over the Iranian regime just to return to the JCPOA, a severely flawed agreement that undermines our national security interests due to its arbitrary sunsets and limited scope. Unfortunately, recent comments from Administration officials suggest that is exactly what the U.S. intends to offer Tehran. An April 2 New York Times article titled “U.S. and Iran Agree to Indirect Talks on Returning to Nuclear Deal” quotes an Administration official saying that the U.S. “would not seek to retain some sanctions for leverage,” because “the previous ‘maximum pressure’ campaign waged against Iran by the Trump administration had failed.”
This sentiment is starkly similar to comments by the U.S. Special Envoy for Iran, Robert Malley. During a March 17, 2021, interview with BBC Persian, a foreign news outlet that is notoriously sympathetic to the Iranian regime, Mr. Malley disparaged current U.S. sanctions on Iran, saying:
The maximum pressure campaign has failed. It was a failure – a predicted failure. It hasn’t made life any better for the Iranian people. It hasn’t made any life better for the U.S. in the region. And it hasn’t brought us any closer to this better deal that President Trump spoke about. It’s been bad for the U.S., for Iran, and for the region.
The sanctions that Mr. Malley criticized are not new. They include sanctions that Democrat and Republican administrations have implemented to punish the Iranian regime for its support for terrorism, nuclear enrichment program, and ballistic missile program. The current sanctions in place provide your Administration with an enormous amount of leverage over the Iranian regime, and they should be used as a tool to address all aspects of Iran’s destabilizing behavior.
Senior administration officials have committed to Congress that the Biden Administration plans to take a new approach separate from the Obama Administration with respect to policy towards Iran. We hope to work with you on a path forward that prevents Iran from possessing nuclear weapons capabilities, addresses support for terrorism, holds the regime accountable for its egregious human rights violations, and ends its hostage-taking of American citizens. But we oppose any attempt to return to the failed JCPOA, or any deal that offers one-sided concessions to the Iranian regime while it continues to undermine the security of the United States and our allies and partners.
Returning to the JCPOA – which means granting Iran significant sanctions relief in exchange for nuclear limitations that expire in just four years – is not a viable strategy. We urge your Administration to reset its approach immediately. Members of Congress rejected the JCPOA on a bipartisan basis in 2015. Returning to the JCPOA is not a recipe for a sustainable Iran policy, and will not protect U.S. national security interests.