There are many in the Biden administration who view reaching a nuclear deal with Iran as a legacy item dating back to their time in the Obama administration and appear willing to throw the United States into a pact with Iran that is even worse than the original Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) from 2015. There are also indications that the Biden administration is willing to do so without seeking congressional approval.
Of all the issues with the disastrous 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal struck by the Obama administration, there were three that stood out most. The first was the sunset provisions, in which the U.S. was making permanent concessions to Iran in exchange for only temporary concessions from the Iranians. The other major flaws were with the verification regime and turning a blind eye to Iran’s non-nuclear bad activities.
Officials in the Biden administration have indicated they are willing to enter an agreement that doesn’t adjust various sunset provision dates, strengthen the flaws in the verification regime and address Iran’s non-nuclear bad activities. By conceding these points and failing to effectively utilize the levers that bring the Iranians to the table in the first place, the administration is once again unnecessarily operating from a position of weakness and demonstrating a willingness to settle for far less than what is acceptable and attainable.
Another egregious error is the willingness to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from the terrorist designation list. The IRGC has proven to be a lethal force for evil on behalf of the world’s largest state sponsor of terror. Easing restrictions on this terror group makes absolutely zero sense whatsoever and would only serve to embolden the Iranians, putting the United States and our allies like Israel at even greater risk, and is just another indication that this new agreement is shaping up to be even worse than the original deal.
In violation of the 2015 JCPOA, prior to U.S. withdrawal from the fatally flawed agreement, Iran tested more IR-8 centrifuges and operated more IR-6s than permitted under the JCPOA. Iran also attempted to acquire carbon fiber that it had agreed not to obtain and stockpiled more heavy water than was allowed under the JCPOA. Iran cannot help itself but to cheat, break promises and skirt the rules. Analysis of the Iranians’ past behavior shows they were repeatedly engaging in activities, on multiple levels, that were not in compliance with the JCPOA.
Additionally, any agreement the Biden administration strikes with the Iranians must be submitted to Congress as a treaty for approval. If it is not ratified by Congress, it is nonbinding and will not be worth the paper it’s written on.
An important lesson must be learned from a key component of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 (INARA) that was ignored following the 2015 JCPOA. The 60-day clock for congressional review started in 2015 even though the verification agreement between the IAEA and Iran had not yet been submitted to Congress. The clock is supposed to start when the entire agreement, not most of it, is sent to Congress. What happened in 2015 was a subversion of the law that cannot be repeated this time around.
It is critically important that the Biden administration reverses course, stands strong and firm, and refuses to enter into an Iran nuclear deal that is even worse than the agreement from 2015. A bad deal is far more dangerous than no deal at all. No matter what, the administration must seek approval from Congress for any nuclear agreement it chooses to enter with Iran.
This op-ed by Congressman Lee Zeldin originally appeared in The Hill.
Congressman Lee Zeldin represents New York’s First Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, co-chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus and a U.S. Army veteran.