Biden moving closer to very bad nuclear deal with Iran

President Biden’s efforts to strike a new nuclear deal with Iran are continuing apace, as worries about significant U.S. concessions emerge. The latest reports out of the indirect talks being facilitated by the EU indicate that Washington and Tehran are getting closer to a deal; the Biden administration is reportedly waiting on an Iranian response to its most recent proposal from mid August. That doesn’t necessarily mean an agreement is imminent, but there’s some reason to believe that one may emerge in the coming weeks. Israeli officials, sensing this, have begun a more-or-less public effort to warn the administration about the consequences of a potential deal that by one estimate would grant Iran over $1 trillion in sanctions relief.

Even where the administration has stuck to its guns and flatly rejected Iran’s demands, it is making unseemly concessions, as it has on U.S. sanctions targeting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Biden’s negotiators have ruled out Tehran’s demands that the State Department remove the IRGC from its foreign terrorist organization list — which would shield it from lawsuits and allow its members to secure U.S. visas, among other things. Instead, Politico reported that the White House may opt for a compromise, whereby the U.S. declines to strictly enforce measures preventing non-U.S. Western companies from transactions with the guards.

Other sanctions-related giveaways are equally disturbing. The Iranian negotiating team is reportedly in the process of drumming up support for its winnings in Tehran, selling the deal to the administration of President Ebrahim Raisi by bragging about the concessions that it claims to have won. Iran International reported that those concessions include a U.S. pledge to annul three executive orders issued by Donald Trump. The first of those orders targets Raisi and Supreme Leader Khamenei, as well as parts of Khamenei’s network and various IRGC commanders involved in terrorist activities. The other two orders target Iranian industrial nodes and the country’s financial industry. Other reports say that the annulment of those executive orders would precede congressional review of any deal.

In fact, Congress, which seems likely to put up a fight against any agreement that Biden tries to ink, might not even get a chance to review it, although the Iranian Nuclear Agreement Review Act should obligate the administration to send the text to Congress for a vote. Indicating that opposition to the agreement among Democrats may be stronger than it was in 2015, bipartisan objections are gaining momentum. “We are deeply concerned about multiple provisions that reportedly may be contained in the final language of any agreement with the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism,” a group of 34 Democrats and 16 Republicans wrote to Biden in a letter this week, citing the aforementioned developments. They urged him to submit the full text for review, in addition to any side agreements, as opposed to acting unilaterally. But the administration has yet to pledge to submit any potential deal to congressional review, and given Biden’s penchant for bypassing Congress, we wouldn’t count on it.

As those lawmakers noted, striking the deal by offering sweeteners to Iran would come against the backdrop of Iranian efforts to murder Americans in terror plots on U.S. soil. Tehran tried, and failed, to kill John Bolton, according to the Department of Justice; it had slightly more luck with an attack by an IRGC sympathizer who managed to maim Salman Rushdie. U.S. officials, foreign-policy experts, journalists, and dissidents all remain under threat. The proper response is to push back forcefully, with forward-leaning clandestine operations, not to free up cash cows for the ayatollah and the IRGC.

All of this is up to the president. He can choose to gut Washington’s maximum-pressure sanctions and offer concessions that far exceed those offered by President Obama during the talks that led to the 2015 agreement, while cutting Congress out of the picture. There’s a reason why prior vows by top officials such as Antony Blinken and Jake Sullivan to secure a “longer and stronger” deal have all but disappeared; the administration itself seems not to believe — for good reason — that its new agreement will be any better than the 2015 version.

While it may be true that lawmakers would likely, in that scenario, pass legislation blocking U.S. efforts to deliver on any potential promises to Tehran, and that any future GOP president would rip up an agreement on Day One, the administration can do considerable damage in the meantime, and every indication is that that is exactly its intention.

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