Back in 2015, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) debated the merits of the JCPOA, otherwise known as the “Iran nuclear deal,” with his fellow Democrats. He ultimately concluded that the deal posed a threat to American interests and opposed it.
That was then. Today, it is not only likely that Senator Schumer will do a 180-degree reversal, but he might even shut down debate on the Biden administration’s impending new Iran deal—and in doing so, violate the law. If Democratic Party leaders refuse to submit for congressional review the new Iran deal expected to be announced imminently, they will be violating the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 (INARA) and thereby overriding the will of the American people.
INARA was passed to prevent the very situation that we find ourselves in now: a president attempting to ram through an agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran without a review of the agreement’s terms by the American people’s duly elected representatives in Congress. INARA requires that the executive branch provide Congress with the text of any putative agreement with Iran and conditions America’s entrance into the deal on congressional support. INARA recognizes the foreign policy significance of any nuclear accord struck with the mullahs, and it empowers Congress to check the president’s unilateral power to enter into such an agreement. What’s more, it does so in unmistakably plain language.
In order to sneak America into a disastrous deal, the Biden administration is reinterpreting INARA in a way opposite from its clear intentions. Jaline Porter, a spokeswoman at the State Department, has indicated President Biden might not submit the new deal’s text to Congress for review. The administration will argue that President Biden is merely reinstating President Obama’s old deal, and that the deal has therefore already been approved by Congress.
But this argument is dead wrong. Beyond the fact that Iran’s nuclear uranium holdings have materially changed since 2015, suggesting the deal’s terms ought to be reconsidered, it appears Biden’s deal will in fact wholly include novel provisions, such as sanctions relief for terrorists. The Biden administration must not skirt the law.
A powerful recent letter by 33 Republican senators recognized INARA’s reality. The new impending deal is more than different—it is worse, a “catastrophic capitulation,” the letter states. A few Democrats have pushed back against the Biden administration on this harrowing new deal, but more must now join their ranks. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) recently asked from the Senate floor: “I don’t think members know exactly what re-entry means. …Is it different? If so, how?” Menendez asked.
Last week, we also saw a new letter sent to Joe Biden from a bipartisan group of House members, including 11 Democrats. They too ask if the administration will respect INARA. If the Biden administration does not want to submit its new deal to Congress, then what does that say about the administration’s confidence in the deal’s content? If the deal would protect American interests and our allies, why not let Congress affirm it? Why not make the entire draft of the text available to the American public?
A deal with the genocidal Iranian regime is too consequential to go without full congressional debate. For approximately a decade, both Democratic and Republican presidential administrations have designated the Islamic Republic of Iran as the world’s leading state-sponsor of terrorism and found it responsible for the loss of countless American lives. Certainly, members of Congress should not be denied the opportunity to review the terms of a nuclear agreement with a regime that has American blood on its hands, disseminates an ideology of global Islamist domination and boasts an inglorious track record of cheating under the previous nuclear deal.
Recent revelations have additionally uncovered that Biden’s deal might actually tie the hands of future presidential administrations by purporting to give Tehran “inherent guarantees.” This is not to mention the many other concessions by the Biden team that have already been reported on. This new Iran deal has the potential to directly fund the deaths of thousands of Americans and to reorder the Middle East with America’s preeminent regional enemy right near the top. Perhaps most important, once the new deal’s enrichment limits expire in full in 2031, Iran’s radical regime can hold America and the West hostage—just as Russia’s Vladimir Putin is doing today.
Congress has an opportunity to stop the murderous Iranian regime from accessing billions of dollars and building a nuclear weapon, but this is predicated upon the Democrats’ commitment to upholding the law and fulfilling INARA’s requirements. Senator Schumer was brave to challenge President Obama’s Iran deal in 2015, and he must now be brave once again. But before Congress can even debate the substantive merits of Biden’s new Iran deal, Democrats must first affirm the congressional right to even air that debate in the first place. Our national security is riding on it.
Ellie Cohanim is a senior fellow with Independent Women’s Forum, and the former deputy special envoy to combat antisemitism. She is a native of Iran. Follow her on Twitter: @EllieCohanim.