RELEASE: Bipartisan Group of 21 Members Raise Concerns About Potential Iran Deal

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, March 10, 2022, U.S. Representatives Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5), Elaine Luria (VA-2), and Tom Reed (NY-23) led a bipartisan group of 21 total Members of Congress urging the Administration to address concerns surrounding the looming agreement with Iran. With reports indicating that the Vienna negotiations are nearing conclusion, there are several critical concerning issues that remain on the table — including the potential lifting of the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and of sanctions placed on the Supreme Leader. 

“As negotiators continue their work, we must not forget where money will be funneled if terrorist sanctions are lifted on Iran. Iran’s nuclear program and terrorist activities are not only regionally focused in the Middle East with Hezbollah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, but also across the rest of the world. Iran’s actions also continue to threaten the security and stability of our key ally Israel, and the entire region,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “The Iranian regime has actively financed a robust worldwide network of proxy groups that host terror cells in Eastern Europe, Latin America, Africa, and even in the United States. We need to address these concerns, so that we can combat the world’s leading state-sponsor of terror.”

“I am deeply concerned that the latest iteration of the failed JCPOA being negotiated by the Biden Administration will empower Iran, endanger Israel, and continue to threaten global security. Any deal that would give Iran a path to a nuclear weapon or allow them to invest in terror proxies is unacceptable,” Congresswoman Elaine Luria (VA-2) said. “If this deal goes through, we must ensure Israel has the means to respond to the resulting threats, and I will continue to stand against any deal that does not permanently prevent a nuclear capable Iran and does not make the Middle East and the world safer.”

It is critical that we get the answers needed regarding renewed negotiations with Iran. We can not take these negotiations lightly as we must recognize Iran’s role as the world’s leading state-sponsor of terror,” said Congressman Tom Reed (NY-23). “In any negotiation, President Biden needs to ensure Israel’s safety and interests are protected. It is fundamental that our questions are sufficiently answered in a timely manner.”

“We hope that no agreement is finalized without additionally addressing these concerns,” the Members wrote to President Biden this week. “Without adequately addressing Iran’s role as the world’s leading state-sponsor of terror — which was noticeably absent from the 2015 JCPOA — and simultaneously providing billions of dollars in sanctions relief, the United States would be providing a clear path for Iranian proxies to continue fueling terrorism.”

“Our support will be contingent largely on satisfactory answers to the following questions,” the Members added.

The questions include a range of topics including whether the Administration plans to bring the agreement to Congress pursuant to the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA), Iran’s estimated breakout time when the agreement is implemented, and what recourse the U.S. will have should Iran violate the agreement after the snapback mechanism in U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231 expires in 2025.

The full signatory list of 21 Members includes Josh Gottheimer, Elaine Luria, Tom Reed, Don Bacon, Jim Costa, Brian Fitzpatrick, Jared Golden, Vicente Gonzalez, Anthony Gonzalez, Jaime Herrera Beutler, David P. Joyce, Susie Lee, Peter Meijer, Dan Meuser, Donald Norcross, Dean Phillips, Darren Soto, Haley Stevens, Thomas R. Suozzi, Fred Upton, and Juan Vargas.. 

Full text of the letter can be found here and below:

March 10, 2022 

The Honorable Joseph R. Biden 

President of the United States 

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. 

Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

Since the beginning of this Administration, we have hoped that renewed negotiations with Iran would achieve a longer and stronger agreement than the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), with clear nuclear restrictions and provisions addressing Iran’s international terror and missile programs.

Among other issues, we are highly concerned about reports indicating the potential lifting of the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and of the sanctions placed on members of the office of the Supreme Leader. Without adequately addressing Iran’s role as the world’s leading state-sponsor of terror — which was noticeably absent from the 2015 JCPOA — and simultaneously providing billions of dollars in sanctions relief, the United States would be providing a clear path for Iranian proxies to continue fueling terrorism.

In his nomination hearing, Secretary of State Antony Blinken committed to maintaining terrorism-related sanctions on Iran. Lifting, waiving, or rescinding terrorism-related sanctions will violate his previous commitment to Congress.

We will review any agreement closely, but from what we currently understand, it is hard to envision supporting an agreement along the lines being publicly discussed. As the State Department has often noted in reference to a nuclear agreement with Iran, “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.” We hope that no agreement is finalized without additionally addressing these concerns. Our support will be contingent largely on satisfactory answers to the following questions. We would appreciate it if you would brief us on the below questions within the next week:

  1. Will an agreement be presented to Congress pursuant to the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA)? Regardless of any substance, the law and proper oversight role of Congress must be respected.
  2. What will Iran’s breakout time be when the agreement is implemented?
  3. What will Iran’s breakout time be in January 2024, and each subsequent year until 2031? In calculating breakout time, please assume that Iran carries out the maximum allowable uranium enrichment activity pursuant to the JCPOA.
  4. Is there a consensus within the U.S. government on these breakout time figures?  If not, please detail the differing views within the Administration. Similarly, is there consensus on these figures by our international partners?  If not, please provide details on any differing views amongst our allies.
  5. Will Russia gain any economic benefit from an Iran agreement?
  6. If Iran subsequently believes the agreement has been violated, or that it has not received the promised sanctions relief, will Russia be in a position to return enriched uranium to Iran?  In essence, will Vladimir Putin become the de facto judge of compliance with an agreement?
  7. How much money will Iran gain immediate access to when a deal is announced?  What is the estimated value of sanctions relief in year one of the agreement, and for each subsequent year through 2031? If there are differing views on these figures within the Administration, please provide details on these differences.
  8. Does the Administration intend to request Congress pass legislation to lift the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) in 2023 as required by the JCPOA? If Congress does not lift ISA, what actions does the Administration expect from Iran? 
  9. Does the Administration support the lifting of U.N. Security Council prohibitions on outside support to Iran’s ballistic missile program? Such prohibitions are currently set to occur in October 2023 pursuant to Security Council Resolution 2231.
  10. The snapback mechanism in U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231 expires in 2025. What recourse will the U.S. have should Iran violate the agreement after that time?
  11. Does the Administration intend to remove the Foreign Terrorist Organization designation of the IRGC? Will sanctions on the IRGC in any other way be diminished?
  12. Will sanctions targeting the Supreme Leader, his office, subordinates, or associated foundations be lifted or lessened in any way?
  13. Will sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran be lifted or lessened in any way? If so, can the Administration certify that the CBI has in no way been engaged in any support for terrorism in facilitation of transactions for terrorist entities (including the IRGC) in the past year?
  14. Will sanctions be lifted, or lessened in any way, on any other entity or individual that has engaged in support for terrorism, or been designated under Executive Order 13224 for providing material support to a designated terrorist entity?
  15. Will Iran be required to satisfactorily answer outstanding questions from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regarding the discovery of undisclosed uranium particles at multiple cites?
  16. Will U.S. human rights programing in Iran continue subsequent to an agreement?

Thank you for your leadership and for your consideration of these questions. We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,    

MEMBERS OF CONGRESS

cc: The Honorable Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

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