Democratic Party leaders urge Biden to rejoin Iran deal, lift Trump’s ‘bad-faith sanctions’

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Dozens of Democrats around the country are offering President Biden “strong support” for rejoining the Iran nuclear deal.

In a letter to Biden sent Monday, 53 state Democratic Party leaders and Democratic National Committee members applauded the administration for entering into indirect talks with Iran to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and urged him to lift “bad-faith sanctions” imposed by former President Trump.

“Lifting Trump’s bad-faith sanctions  which he explicitly imposed on Iran in order to make a return to the JCPOA next-to-impossible  should not be treated as a concession to Iran, but rather as an effort to restore U.S. credibility and enhance American security,” they wrote in the letter, a draft of which was obtained by The Hill before its release.

“We urge you not to cave to pressure from proponents of Trump’s failed approach to Iran,” they continued. “We have seen the net effect of that policy: A larger Iranian nuclear program and a greater risk of war with Iran.”

The letter was organized by the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, an anti-interventionist think tank. Among the notable signatories on the letter are Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison (D) and Democratic Ohio congressional candidate Nina Turner.

“Rejoining the Iran nuclear deal and lifting Trump’s bad-faith sanctions is not only supported by rank-and-file Democrats in red, purple, and blue states, but also by our Democratic Party leaders from all across the country,” Yasmine Taeb, a progressive strategist and an organizer of the letter for the Quincy Institute, said in a statement. “President Biden pledged to chart a new course and called for a foreign policy for the middle class that will end forever wars and focus on the immediate domestic crises and that begins by rejoining the 2015 nuclear deal and rejecting Trump’s failed approach on Iran.” 

The Democrats’ stance in the letter is unsurprising, but comes amid a back-and-forth of letters to the Biden administration from Capitol Hill about his efforts to rejoin the nuclear deal, from which Trump withdrew in 2018.

Republican letters have warned Biden against rejoining, while Democratic letters have urged Biden to quickly rejoin the agreement, which was negotiated by the Obama administration.

There have also been bipartisan letters from House and Senate lawmakers calling for a “comprehensive” approach to threats posed by Iran and sounding the alarm about Iran’s nuclear program.

The bipartisan letters rankled some progressives who accused Democrats who signed on of playing into the hands of opponents of the nuclear deal who insist any agreement go beyond the nuclear portfolio.

The Biden administration officials argue that reining in Iran’s nuclear program is the most pressing issue with Tehran and that returning to the JCPOA is the most effective means to do so, adding that they will use a return to the deal as a jumping off point to negotiate a “longer and stronger” agreement that covers a broader range of Iranian malign activity.

The latest letter also comes amid signs of progress in the indirect talks, rounds of which have been taking place in Vienna since early April.

Ahead of the start of the fourth round last week, a State Department official told reporters it’s “possible” a deal could be reached “in the next few weeks,” but stressed that Iran needs to make a “political decision” to return to the deal.

Since Trump withdrew from the deal and reimposed harsh sanctions on Iran, Tehran has been gradually breaching key limits of the agreement.

In their letter to Biden, the state Democrats argued that Trump’s withdrawal “made America less safe,” saying, “America’s credibility has been severely damaged and its national security damaged.”

“The Obama administration did not only prove that diplomacy with Iran works, it also proved that no other policy tool advances American security more effectively than diplomacy,” they wrote to Biden. “We urge you to continue on this proven path of success.”

Tags Barbara Lee Donald Trump Iran nuclear deal Iran–United States relations Joe Biden Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Keith Ellison
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