‘Reckless and disturbing’: House Foreign Affairs Chairman slams Biden over Iran negotiations

Michael McCaul accused Biden administration of “rewarding Iran’s bad behavior in exchange for a false promise of de-escalation.”

By Andrew Bernard, Algemeiner

The Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Michael McCaul (R-TX) on Thursday sent a letter to President Biden describing his handling of nuclear negotiations as “reckless” and “deeply disturbing.”

“I am disturbed by recent revelations that the Administration has re-engaged in ‘proximity talks’ with the Iranian regime, and that the results of these discussions have included the apparent greenlighting of sizable payments to Iran,” McCaul wrote. “Rather than using United States diplomatic leverage and military deterrence to dissuade Iran from engaging in these malign activities, this Administration is rewarding Iran’s bad behavior in exchange for a false promise of de-escalation.”

McCaul’s letter was prompted by reports first published in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday that confirmed that the US and Iran had engaged in so-called “proximity talks” in March and May in Oman, with the Omanis passing messages between US Middle East adviser Brett McGurk and Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator.

The negotiations coincided with the Biden administration authorizing $2.7 billion-worth of Euro-denominated payments from Iraq to Iran that had previously been frozen by US sanctions.

McCaul’s letter also raised concerns that the Biden administration might pursue an “understanding” or other informal terminology with Iran rather than a written agreement in order to circumvent Congressional review under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 (INARA).

“I’d call it a cooling-down understanding,” one Western official told Reuters.

INARA’s text requires the President to submit any Iranian nuclear agreement to Congress “regardless of the form it takes, whether a political commitment or otherwise, and regardless of whether it is legally binding or not.” McCaul said that the law was “deliberately expansive in scope.”

“This definition makes clear that any arrangement or understanding with Iran, even informal, requires submission to Congress,” McCaul’s letter said. “I urge the Administration to remember that U.S. law requires that any agreement, arrangement, or understanding with Iran needs to be submitted to Congress pursuant to INARA.”

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking at a session of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday likewise criticized the idea of “smaller agreements” between the US and Iran short of a full return to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action–the Iran nuclear deal.

“Over 90% of our security problems stem from Iran and its proxies, and our policy is aimed at increasing the circle of peace, to stop Iran and its proxies,” Netanyahu said. “Our position is clear: No agreement with Iran will be binding on Israel, which will continue to do everything to defend itself.”

Concluding his letter Thursday, McCaul appealed to the memory of American troops killed by Iranian proxies.

“Any continued obstruction will rob the American people, and in particular the Gold Star families whose loved ones were killed by Iran-backed terrorism, of answers about why the United States is facilitating the lining of Iran’s coffers,” he wrote.