Iran nuclear deal heads for revival but faces criticism in US

WASHINGTON — Laborious negotiations to revive an international nuclear agreement with Iran maybe it’s coming to an end , and diplomats s...


WASHINGTON — Laborious negotiations to revive an international nuclear agreement with Iran maybe it’s coming to an end, and diplomats say a deal is within reach after nearly a year of talks. But a backlash among his critics in the United States has only just begun.

According to diplomats, the United States and Iran could soon decide to return to respecting the 2015 agreement, which limited Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of certain American economic sanctions. A US official familiar with the talks said on Thursday that “real progress” had been made, but that a deal remained uncertain.

Among the sticking points, according to other officials who also spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the delicate talks, is how to cut Iran’s nuclear fuel production to prevent it from rapidly developing a bomb.

Yet with a potential deal on the horizon – European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell Fontelles, said this week that “I strongly believe a deal is in sight” – Republicans, and even some Democrats, are trying to prevent President Biden from re-committing to it.

Republicans see the deal as a political cudgel to wield against Mr. Biden and congressional Democrats, who will defend narrow House and Senate majorities in midterm elections in November.

If Congress votes on the deal, “it will be a bloody political battle,” said John P. Hannah, national security adviser to former Vice President Dick Cheney and critic of the 2015 deal. “And the message that should come out is that this administration has caved in to Iran.”

Mr Hannah, who has also advised secretaries of state from both parties in previous administrations, said the return to the deal could fuel fears that the United States is abandoning Middle Eastern allies who are there. are also opposed, namely Israel. Given foreign disapproval of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in August, Hannah said, the deal “could, at the fringe, be another one of those things that’s just been added to the pile that will find a resonate with a certain section of the American people”.

Mr Biden said returning to the deal would be proof of America’s recommitment to international agreements that have been set aside by President Donald J. Trump. Trump’s withdrawal from the pact in 2018 was followed by hundreds of US sanctions imposed on Iran, devastating the country’s economy and prompting its leaders to quickly rebuild its nuclear program.

It is estimated that Iran might have enough nuclear fuel within weeks to produce a bomb, although manufacturing a real warhead would take much longer. Iran has denied claims that it is building a nuclear bomb and maintained that its program is for peaceful purposes. The UN’s atomic watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, also said it found no evidence that Iran was building a nuclear bomb.

Mr Trump wanted to force Iran to negotiate a new deal that would also hamper its missile program and support for proxy militias across the Middle East that have stoked violence from Iraq to Syria to Yemen . Iran has staunchly refused to discuss its military and missile activities or negotiate issues beyond a nuclear deal.

Biden administration officials have insisted they, too, want to curb those programs, but diplomats said as recently as last month that they would not be part of any immediate deal with Iran.

That angered a handful of Democrats who opposed the 2015 deal, which was brokered by the Obama administration.

“I ask why we would even try to go back to the JCPOA — an agreement that wasn’t good enough to begin with and still doesn’t address some of the most serious national security concerns we have,” said Sen. Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said during a Feb. 1 speech. He was referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the official name of the nuclear deal with Iran, which Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia also signed.

During his address to the Senate, Menendez noted that Iran’s ballistic missile program is the largest in the region and has been used to attack US troops in neighboring Iraq. Iran tried unsuccessfully to launch a satellite into orbit in December and last week unveiled a new long-range missile that could reach Israel or other countries in the region. Yemeni rebels backed by Tehran have attacked Saudi Arabia for years and last month hit the United Arab Emirates with missiles and Drone strikes.

Mr Menendez called Iran’s nuclear program a “clear and present danger” that “has been disproportionately worse day by day”.

Even so, he said, “now is the time to reinvigorate our multilateral sanctions efforts and seek new avenues, new ideas, new solutions for diplomatic resolution.”

Other Democrats have urged the Biden administration to join the nuclear deal as soon as possible. Senator Christopher Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, called it “laughable” that Republicans claim Mr Trump’s sanctions policy had deterred Iran’s military activities.

“Trump tried,” Mr. Murphy said in his own address to the Senate on Feb. 8. ” It did not work. Iran didn’t come to the table on anything.

“Newsflash: Sometimes there are diplomatic agreements that are in the best interest of the United States, and the JCPOA was definitely one of them,” Mr. Murphy said.

The Biden administration does not have to seek permission from Congress to renew the deal, though a 2015 law gives lawmakers the ability to review and potentially block it — a move Biden faces. would almost certainly veto it.

Last week, 33 Republican senators warned in a letter to the White House that any deal would “likely be torn apart” by the next presidential administration “as early as January 2025.” A letter signed by more than 100 House Republicans this week issued a similar threat.

The possible return of US sanctions in three years if a new deal is reached but again abandoned is a key reason Iran has been reluctant to commit to returning to compliance. Tehran’s leaders want assurances that the deal will endure under future presidents — something the Biden administration cannot promise.

“At the very least, their parliaments, or heads of parliaments, including the US Congress, should issue a political statement announcing their support for the deal and a return to the JCPOA,” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir said. Abdollahian at the Financial Times. in an interview released Wednesday.

Even if a new deal lasts three years, US diplomats and other supporters have said it will still achieve its main goals: easing Iran’s economic pain while slowing its alleged march toward a nuclear bomb.

Jeremy Ben-Ami, the chairman of liberal pro-Israel advocacy group J Street, described opposition to the deal as a small number of Democrats and a focused Republican effort “to play politics with American foreign policy.” . He said no Democrat who voted to support the 2015 deal lost election in the congressional midterm elections a year later.

“There were no political fallouts,” said Ben-Ami, whose group backed the deal and is advocating for its renewal.

“The beauty of having this argument a second time is that we actually have the facts of the first time – the real-world experience both that the policy was good and that the policy didn’t hurt anyone. who supported her,” Mr. Ben-Ami said. “And yet here we are in 2022, going back and having the exact same argument.”

Farnaz Fassihi contributed reporting from New York.



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Newsrust - US Top News: Iran nuclear deal heads for revival but faces criticism in US
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