The US Senate on Wednesday passed a non-binding motion demanding that any nuclear agreement reached with Iran also address the Islamic Republic’s ballistic missile program and support for proxies in the region.
The symbolic measure passed 62-33, with 16 Democrats voting in favor, demonstrating the widespread opposition to the Biden administration’s efforts to return to the nuclear accord known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
The 2015 deal that traded sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program decidedly did not address other issues. Former US president Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement in 2018 and implemented a maximum-pressure sanctions campaign targeting Iran.
The motion introduced by Republican Senator James Lankford also stipulated that any nuclear agreement reached with Iran not include the removal of sanctions against Tehran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps or specifically the IRGC’s removal from the State Department list of Foreign Terror Organizations.
Iran’s demand that the US delist the IRGC is believed to be the final barrier blocking a joint US-Iran return to compliance with the JCPOA — though one significant enough to cause a nearly two-month-long stalemate in the negotiations between world powers in Vienna, with optimism about the possibility for a compromise shrinking by the day.
The Biden administration has made it clear that it will not budge on the Iranian demand so long as Tehran does not take steps of its own to justify delisting the IRGC.
“If Iran wants sanctions lifting that goes beyond the JCPOA, they’ll need to address concerns of ours that go beyond the JCPOA,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said last month when asked about the Revolutionary Guards’ delisting. “They will need to negotiate those issues in good faith with reciprocity.”
While Democrats who oppose the Iran nuclear deal have always been a minority, the bloc appears to be growing.
Four Democratic Senators voted against the original JCPOA — Sens. Chuck Schumer, Bob Menendez, Ben Cardin and Joe Manchin. All but Menendez voted in favor of Wednesday’s motion along with 13 others. Menendez did not vote, though his comments expressing concern over the nuclear talks in recent months more than indicate that he would have backed Langford’s initiative.
The other Democrats to vote with the Republican caucus were Sens. Richard Blumenthal, Cory Booker, Chris Coons, Catherine Cortez Masto, Kirsten Gillibrand, Maggie Hassan, Mark Kelly, Angus King, Gary Peters, Jacky Rosen, Kyrsten Sinema, Jon Tester and Ron Wyden.