Members of the Republican Study Committee Caucus announced a bill to counter the Biden administration’s policies on Iran, especially sanction removal, on Wednesday, April 21.
At the RSC press conference announcing the Maximum Pressure Act in front of the U.S. Capitol, Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), the group’s chair, said, “In the first 100 days, President [Joe] Biden has exhibited a troubling pattern. He’s talked a big game while returning to the same Obama-era weakness that emboldened our adversaries and made American families less safe.
“His foreign policy seems to be defined by the approach of ‘speak loudly and carry a twig,’ which is in stark contrast to the tree limb that [Pompeo] and President [Donald] Trump carried on a daily basis.”
“And we are seeing Biden’s weak approach take root with regards to Iran,” Banks said, adding that the RSC convened at noon on Wednesday “to communicate to the Biden administration that we will fight to maintain sanctions on Iran and show our adversaries that if Joe Biden temporarily lifts sanctions, we will reimpose them later.”
According to Banks, the Maximum Pressure Act accomplishes three goals. Firstly, it demonstrates that Congress “is not bound to agreements by the president that purports to speak on our behalf.” Secondly, it “modifies the Trump administration’s maximum pressure strategy until Iran meets the 12 demands laid out [by Pompeo] in May of 2018,” of which Banks said, “Biden’s State Department refused to say that they support.” And thirdly, it “expands the existing bipartisan Iran sanctions mandated by Congress.”
According to the Indiana congressman, the law is “the toughest sanctions bill ever introduced in Congress on Iran,” with 83 cosponsors as of Wednesday.
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was briefed on the bill, said that “it talks about things that need to be done for Iran to rejoin the community of nations and says ‘If you don’t do that, sanctions are going to … remain in place.’ This is what Congress quintessentially has the responsibility to do.”
Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, hoping for a bipartisan bill in the Democrat-controlled House, went on to say that “this isn’t about Republicans, or conservatives, or Democrats; this is about the security of America.”
Behnam Taleblu is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies who focuses on Iranian security and political issues. Speaking on SaraACarter.com on Wednesday, he said the “legislation signals that many members of Congress do not think the talks in Vienna, as well as the more conciliatory and pale green light approach taken by the Biden administration towards Iran, will bear fruit.” He referred to the continuing negotiations in Vienna between the U.S., Iran, and several other countries over the 2015 Iran nuclear deal—also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—from which former President Donald Trump removed the U.S., drawing widespread criticism from Western allies.
“The Trump administration’s 12 points was not a departure from long-standing U.S. goals or national strategy towards the Islamic Republic,” Taleblu said. He added that the Obama presidency turned “a blind eye to Iran’s regional threat networks and permitting domestic enrichment, which enabled and sustained the fatally flawed JCPOA, represented the departure in U.S. policy.”
“Any attempt to restore the importance of those 12 points, as well as integrate human rights for a critical ’13th point’ should therefore be seen as a restoration of long-standing U.S. policy aiming towards Tehran.”
Furthermore, “it is unclear if this bill will become law,” Taleblu continued. “The message it sends, coupled with a flurry of other bills, bipartisan letters, and statements, is clear. The U.S. Congress believes in a more comprehensive pressure policy to impede Iran’s revenues, call out its human rights abuses, and change its behavior. Attempts to resurrect the JCPOA will do none of that.”
“I would consider this legislation to be the beginnings of a more cohesive Congressional ‘ground-game on Iran led by the RSC,” the senior fellow of the FDD added. “The range of diverse sanctions options discussed in the bill should serve as a reminder that the United States has more room to grow its peaceful pressure policy, rather than trade it away for limited concessions at the negotiating table.”