House Republicans are demanding the Biden administration share what it knows about an apparent Russian overture to Iran about a proposed ‘interim’ nuclear deal amid a standoff between Tehran and major powers.
The U.S. is ‘aware’ of the proposal, NBC reported, amid administration efforts to try to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
Such an interim deal would involve a lifting of some sanctions on Tehran in exchange for additional restrictions on its nuclear program – the same kind of trade-offs that make up the 2015 deal negotiated during the Obama administration that President Donald Trump scrapped.
Amid the limited information about potential strides, House Republicans with national security backgrounds are demanding the administration share what it knows.
The Biden administration is ‘aware’ of a Russian nuclear proposal to Iran, according to a weekend report. House GOP lawmakers are demanding to see it
‘Russia sent a secret agreement to Iran. Russia is trying to take the lead now in the negotiations with Iran. This is a secret agreement. We haven’t seen it,’ complained Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in comments to the Washington Free Beacon.
Adding to the concern is ongoing tension with Russia amid fears of another Russian invasion of Ukraine. The standoff has President Biden considering dispatching U.S. forces to shore-up allies in the Balkans, and threatening to impose massive economic sanctions on Russia.
Rep. Mike Gallagher, a former Marine Corps intelligence officer who serves on the Armed Services Committee, called reports the administration is ‘working with the Russians’ on the issue ‘doubly concerning.’
‘First, they create a conflict of interest with Russia as we are trying to prevent an invasion of Ukraine. Second, preemptive sanctions relief, and failure to transmit an interim agreement to Congress, would violate the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act. The administration needs to end their simultaneous surrender to Russia and Iran before it’s too late,’ he told the publication.
‘This is a secret agreement. We haven’t seen it,’ complained Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas)
Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov shake hands before their meeting on January 21, 2022, in Geneva, Switzerland. Blinken said there was a closing window to revive the deal
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi delivers a speech during a session of the State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, in Moscow, Russia January 20, 2022
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (R) meets Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) in Moscow, Russia on January 19, 2022
The administration is keeping distance from the proposal.
A senior Biden administration told NBC an interim arrangement isn’t under serious discussion.
‘Though we cannot speak for any discussions that may have taken place between Russia and Iran, at this stage we are certain that no such interim arrangement is being seriously discussed,’ said the official. ‘Regarding an interim deal, we will not negotiate in the press or comment on specific claims about the negotiations. Our timeline is based on a technical assessment of Iran’s nuclear progress rather than a temporal clock.’
One draft that Russia pitched would have Tehran stop enriching uranium up to 60 per cent purity and get rid of its stockpile, while unlocking billions in frozen oil revenue.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Iran Nuclear Deal Review Act, signed into law by President Obama in 2015 amid congressional concerns about the deal, requires the administration to provide Congress with any final agreement for review.
Iran at present is refusing to hold direct talks with U.S. negotiators.
The report on the Russian proposal comes after Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva amid Ukraine tensions and warned there was a closing window of time on Iran.
‘The talks with Iran about a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA have reached a decisive moment,’ Blinken said, referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
‘If a deal is not reached in the next few weeks, Iran’s ongoing nuclear advances will make it impossible to return to the JCPOA. But right now, there’s still a window, a brief one, to bring those talks to a successful conclusion and address the remaining concerns of all sides,’ Blinken said.