Last week, 33 Republican senators sent a letter to U.S. President Joe Biden calling on the president to submit any deal reached with Iran to Congress for approval as a treaty in accordance with the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which was passed in 2015. 

Failure to do so by the Biden administration could prompt the senators to block the deal. A treaty requires at least two-thirds of the Senate in order to pass. 

The letter comes as negotiations over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or the JCPOA, went into their eighth round last week. 

 “As a threshold matter, we reiterate our view that any agreement with Iran regarding its nuclear program is of such gravity for U.S. national security that by definition it is a treaty requiring Senate advice and consent,” the Republican signatories to the letter wrote. “Furthermore, genuinely robust nuclear agreement with Iran would be compelling enough to secure assent from two-thirds of the Senate – and the only reason not to present it for a resolution of ratification is that it is too weak to pass muster. Any agreement related to Iran’s nuclear program which is not a treaty ratified by the Senate is subject to being reversed, and indeed will likely be torn up, in the opening days of the next Presidential administration, as early as January 2025. That timeline is roughly as long as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) survived implementation, and potentially even shorter.”

Concerns about a possible renewed Iran deal have not been limited to Republican senators. Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Robert Menendez, a Democrat, held an hour-long speech earlier this month in which he argued against reviving the Iran nuclear deal. 

“At this point, we seriously have to ask what exactly are we trying to salvage?” Menendez said. “As someone who has followed Iran’s nuclear ambition for the better part of three decades, I am here today to raise concerns about the current round of negotiations over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action… It’s time to start thinking out of the box and consider new strategies for rolling back Iran’s nuclear program and addressing its dangerous and nefarious activities.” 

Menendez also called on the Biden administration to put more pressure on Iran and “vigorously” enforce U.S. sanctions. 

“These new efforts should include creative diplomatic initiatives, stricter sanctions enforcement, and a steely determination from Congress to back up President Biden’s declaration that Iran will ‘never get a nuclear weapon on my watch,’” Menendez said.

Some analysts are questioning whether lawmakers opposed to the Iran deal will be successful in stopping it, while Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett remains largely silent on the issue. “So, indeed, where is Israel? Why hasn’t the Bennett-led government put up more of a public fight to the emerging nuclear deal,” Herb Keinon asked in a piece in the Jerusalem Post, contrasting Bennett’s silence with former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s forceful opposition to the JCPOA in 2015. 

“If Israel is opposed – which it is – nobody is hearing much about it. And this matters on two counts…because absent a strong Israeli opposition to the deal, it will be more difficult inside the U.S. for opponents of the deal to mobilize… in contrast to 2015, this time around these opponents don’t have fiery rhetoric from Jerusalem to give them a strong back wind. How much can anyone expect Menendez to buck his party’s president and oppose the deal if even Israel isn’t making that much of a fuss about it? …And second, it matters because other countries in the Mideast, as concerned about a nuclear Iran as Israel is, are expecting at least a strong Israeli public position on the matter – but are not hearing one.”

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