The New Iran Maneuvers of the US Senators: The Politics of Letter

The New Iran Maneuvers of the US Senators: The Politics of Letter
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Senior Expert Bilgehan Alagöz

The parties of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), 4+1 states (UK, France, China, Russia + Germany) and Iran have decided to continue the negotiations on a technical level, which started on April 6, regarding the future of the agreement. The US politicians who are opposed to the process or concerned about it continue to show their reactions. In this context, the letters which the US senators have written one after another draw attention.

Forty senators, including Democrats and Republicans, who were led by the Democratic Senator Bob Menendez and the Republican Senator Lindsey Graham wrote the first letter to President Joe Biden on March 25, before the Vienna Talks. The letter specifies that the senators have a difference of opinion about the JCPOA, which was signed in 2015, and the maximum pressure policy of the Trump administration. They emphasized their common concerns towards the acceleration of nuclear activities in Iran, including increasing centrifuge production and enriching uranium up to 20%. In this regard, the following statement of the senators is significant: “Iran should have no doubt about America’s policy. Democrats and Republicans may have tactical differences, but we are united on preventing an Iranian nuclear weapon and addressing the wide range of illicit Iranian behaviour”. The senators appreciated the positive attitude of the Biden administration toward the Congress along with the President for following the Abraham Accords. They also expressed that apart from its nuclear program, Iran’s ballistic missile program and its activities throughout the Middle East represent a national security threat for the USA. Moreover, the US president is invited to consult with the European allies, the Gulf security partners, and Israel in the long term.

The second letter was also written to the President, but in a bitter tone, on April 6, by Republican Senators Jim Inhofe, Marco Rubio, Pat Toomey, and Todd Young. The senators expressed their concerns about the possibility of lifting the sanctions on Iran to return the JCPOA. They emphasized that the US should not abandon the pressure policy on Iran as a result of the Vienna Talks or any other negotiation. The statements of Robert Malley, the US Special Representative for Iran, regarding the maximum pressure policy in an interview with BBC Persian on March 17, were strongly condemned in the letter. The senators underlined the fact that returning to the JCPOA would mean giving a right to relief to Iran from significant sanctions, and it is not a sustainable strategy. In this context, the demands of the senators from the President to abandon his current attitude towards Iran are significant. The letter, which was written in a bitter tone, has made it clear that the senators would enhance their opposition against the process in any circumstances of negotiation with Iran. They would also try every possible way to put pressure on the President about the issue.

The reason behind the senators’ aggressive statements is the midterm elections which will be held in November 2022. The election of the 34 members of the Senate out of 100 will be repeated and the importance of the election is increasing day by day for the currently 50-50 divided Senate. The 34 Senators include 14 democrats and 20 republicans. It is a significant detail that Democrats did not win any seats in the states where Trump won in the 2020 election, in contrast to the 2018 midterm election, in which Democrats maintained 10 seats in the states where Donald Trump won in the 2016 election. It is possible to predict that the critical approaches of the Democrats towards Trump’s Iran policies will be used by the Republicans in the election campaign. Hence, the Democratic senators maintain their sensitivity about Iran in contrast to the Biden administration. Consequently, it strengthens the position of the Republicans, who have always had an aggressive attitude about returning to the agreement with Iran. Therefore, the Biden administration has to be moderate to maintain the balance of the Senate while it tries to make policies to start nuclear negotiations with Iran.