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More than 160 House Republicans threaten to scuttle potential Iran deal

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More than 160 House Republicans are threatening to scuttle or rip up a potential nuclear deal with Iran, warning President Biden that any agreement struck without congressional approval will be opposed by members of the caucus — and overturned if Republicans retake power.

In a letter to Biden on Wednesday, members of the House GOP referenced reports that Iran is asking for a “guarantee” that the U.S. will never reimpose sanctions as long as the Middle East nation agrees to comply with an agreement regarding its nuclear program.

The lawmakers, however, emphasized that Biden does “not have the power” to make such a guarantee, and threatened to oppose an agreement made between the two countries that does not first receive congressional approval.

They said such a deal would be “non-binding,” and suggested it would experience the same outcome as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — the nuclear deal negotiated under the Obama administration in 2015 then abandoned by former President Trump in 2018.

“If you forge an agreement with the Supreme Leader of Iran without formal Congressional approval, it will be temporary and non-binding and will meet the same fate as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA),” the lawmakers wrote in the letter, first reported by Axios.

The Republicans said they will oppose a deal to lift sanctions if Iran has not “fully dismantled their enrichment and reprocessing-related infrastructure capabilities,” among other terms — including that all Americans hostages are released and the country’s sponsorship of terrorism is ended.

The letter, signed by a total of 165 GOP lawmakers, comes more than two weeks after the Biden administration warned that the U.S. and Iran only have “a handful of weeks left to get a deal” on a nuclear agreement.

A group of Senate Republicans sent a similar letter to Biden last week, suggesting that the chamber could block an attempt to return to the JCPOA.

The debate over where authority lies in the potential renewal of an Iran nuclear deal hinges on the  Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA), passed in May 2015 giving Congress the power to review agreements reached in P5+1″ talks with Iran and other world powers. 

Supporters of Biden’s push to return to the JCPOA argue the mandate for congressional review within the INARA does not apply since the administration is returning to the original agreement, which already went through a rigorous congressional review.

If the two nations were to re-enter the JCPOA, the broad strokes would be the U.S. lifting sanctions on Iran, and the Middle East nation halting its nuclear program and getting rid of excess nuclear material and infrastructure.

The Biden administration has said it believes the JCPOA is the best way the U.S. can immediately limit Iran’s nuclear activity while also opening it up to international monitoring.

The letter from House Republicans, however, reminded Biden of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, which says the administration has to submit “any agreement related to the nuclear program with Iran” to Congress for evaluation.

“A return to mutual compliance is in the United States’ national security interests regardless of who is in office now or in the future on either side,” a State Department spokesperson told The Hill.

The spokesperson also said Biden “believes that a bipartisan approach to Iran is the strongest way to safeguard U.S. interests for the long-term,” adding that the administration is “committed to ensuring the requirements of INARA are satisfied.”

Biden administration officials have reached out to members of Congress and their staffs to discuss the administration’s approach to Iran, according to the spokesperson.

–Updated at 11:32 a.m.

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