Joe Biden
Joe BidenREUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

A group of 50 House Democrats and Republicans, led by Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Andrew Garbarino (R-NY), on Thursday wrote a letter to President Joe Biden in which they call on him to share with Congress the text of a potential agreement with Iran to return to the 2015 nuclear deal before any papers are signed.

The letter expressed deep concerns about reported provisions in a potential agreement with Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. Concerns include weakening the effectiveness of terrorism-related sanctions on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and allowing Russia to have a role in Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

“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,” it says.

“For example, the new agreement reportedly states that, ‘Non-U.S. persons doing business with Iranian persons that are not on the [U.S. sanctions list] will not be exposed to sanctions merely as a result of those Iranian persons engaging in separate transactions involving Iranian persons on the [U.S. sanctions list] (including Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), its officials, or its subsidiaries or affiliates).’”

“While we commend you for refusing to remove the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) — one of our most powerful tools used to compel state sponsors of terror to change — the aforementioned reported provision creates a troubling precedent. We are concerned that it could significantly dilute the effectiveness of terrorism-related sanctions on the IRGC, Iran’s paramilitary terror arm and provides the organization with a pathway for sanctions evasion,” the letter says.

The lawmakers note that the IRGC “has directly, or through its proxies, including Hezbollah, Hamas, Ansar Allah (Houthis), Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and scores of Shiite militias in Iraq, killed hundreds of Americans, and attacked our bases and our allies in the region.”

“Strengthened with an estimated one trillion dollars in sanctions relief over a decade, Iran and the IRGC would be an enormous danger to Americans at home and abroad, and to our allies.”

The letter also expresses concerns over reports that under the proposed deal, “Russia will be the de facto judge of compliance and the keeper of Iran’s enriched uranium, without any oversight mechanisms by the United States or our European partners.”

“Additionally, we strongly urge your Administration not to permit Russia to be the recipient of Iran’s enriched uranium nor to have the right to conduct nuclear work with the Islamic Republic, including a $10 billion contract to expand Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. We should not let war criminal Vladimir Putin be the guarantor of the deal or the keeper of massive amounts of Iran’s enriched uranium. Iran supports the illegal war in Ukraine and has been supplying Russia with drones used to kill Ukrainians.”

The lawmakers also express concerns over reports that “the agreement may suspend terrorism sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran, the National Development Fund, and the National Iranian Oil Company, designated by the previous administration for supporting terrorism.”

“Therefore, we urge you not to return to any deal with Iran prior to releasing the full text of the agreement and any side agreements to Congress, to provide us with an in-depth briefing on the matter, and to consult with all key stakeholders. We must address the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, stand strong against terrorists, and protect American values and our allies,” it concludes.

The letter comes amid signs that the US and Iran are close to reaching an agreement on a return to the 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran on Thursday night submitted its comments to the US response to the European Union’s draft for reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the spokesperson of the Iranian Foreign Ministry said.

The spokesperson, Nasser Kanaani, said that Iran’s response was prepared based on a constructive approach.

The EU proposal, submitted on July 26 by its foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, has been described by the EU as a “final draft” of the agreement.

Iran’s response comes nine days after it confirmed it had received a response from the United States to its proposals on the EU draft and said it is “carefully reviewing the US opinions”.

Lawmakers in Washington have several times expressed concerns about the pending Iran agreement.

In March, a bipartisan group of 21 Members of Congress, led by Gottheimer, Luria and Tom Reed (NY-23), urged the Biden administration to address concerns surrounding the looming agreement with Iran.

The lawmakers noted that, with reports indicating that the Vienna negotiations are nearing conclusion, there are several critical concerning issues that remain on the table — including the potential lifting of the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and of sanctions placed on the Supreme Leader.

A month earlier, nearly 200 House Republicans wrote to Biden and warned that any nuclear deal made with Iran without Congress' approval "will meet the same fate" as the 2015 agreement.

In May, the US Senate passed a non-binding motion prohibiting the Biden administration from removing Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from the list of foreign terrorist organizations as part of a nuclear deal with Iran.