- The U.S. has condemned Iran for supplying drones and training support to Russia, which the country is using to “grotesque” effect in targeting Ukrainian civilians and critical infrastructure, according to multiple administration officials.
- However, House Democrats are pressuring the Senate to lessen sanctions on Iran in hopes that the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal could still be revived.
- “The longer the administration plays a double-speak game keeping the door to the nuclear deal open, the longer U.S. policy will be self-contradicting,” Richard Goldberg, senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Democrats and the Biden administration are continuing to leave the door open for a return to the Iranian nuclear deal even as reports emerge that Iran has escalated its support for Russia, a development experts say represent the administration’s “self-contradicting” policy.
Iran is supplying drones and on-the-ground training support to Russia, the White House and Pentagon confirmed on Thursday, making Iran complicit in “exporting terrorism,” according to Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen Pat Ryder. Nevertheless, a Democrat-led House committee may push the Senate to drop a sanctions package on Iran’s drone program over concerns it would confound any efforts to restore the nuclear deal, Politico reported.
“Iran teaming up with Russia to supply them with drones is despicable,” Republican Rep. Lisa McClain of Michigan, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “It’s well past time the Biden Administration abandon the disastrous Iran Nuclear Deal and walk away from the table, permanently.”
The “dictatorial regimes” in Moscow and Tehran “are cut from the same cloth,” she added. (RELATED: ‘Different Tracks’: US Strikes Iran Proxies While Nuclear Deal Remains Unsigned)
The US has “ample evidence” that Iran is supplying the so-called “kamikaze” drones to Russia, delivering “cruel and deliberate attacks” on Ukraine, U.S. Mission to the United Nations Spokesperson Nate Evans said Wednesday. The activity violates mutually-agreed upon international law in the UN, according to Evans, as well as dedicated U.S. sanctions against the Russian and Iranian arms trades.
“Sanctioning Iran over the provision of armed drones should be a no-brainer; just as transferring ATACMS to Kyiv should be a no-brainer, too. The longer the administration plays a double-speak game keeping the door to the nuclear deal open, the longer U.S. policy will be self-contradicting,” Richard Goldberg, senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and former adviser on countering weapons of mass destruction at the National Security Council, told the DCNF.
In recent days, hundreds of kamikaze drones have descended on Ukrainian energy infrastructure and densely-populated civilian areas. While Ukraine has shot down over half, according to officials, it is begging for additional air defense systems to repel the anticipated onslaught.
President Biden promised to supply additional defense systems to Ukraine on Monday, Axios reported.
At the same time, he has not given up on renegotiating the 2015 nuclear deal that would give Iran sanctions relief in exchange for temporary caps on its nuclear program, although officials have admitted the deal is all but impossible to reach.
“It defies understanding that the same administration would continue to push for any sort of deal with a regime that is so actively causing death and suffering around the world, even against its own citizens,” Simone Ledeen, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East under the Trump administration, told the DCNF. “Ukraine is only the latest example of the Iranian regime’s material support to terrorism.”
When asked Thursday whether evidence of Iran’s direct support to the Russian war effort would dissuade the administration from continuing to pursue the nuclear deal, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price honed in on Russia’s “grotesque objectives” targeting civilian areas.
“We’ve heard nothing in recent weeks to suggest that Iran is prepared or preparing to change its approach, and so right now the eyes of the world are where they should be,” Price said after further questioning, characterizing any discussion of a return to the JCPOA as “largely academic.”
Senators debated this week whether to include the Stop Iranian Drones Act, a bill aimed at cutting off Iran’s access to lethal drones or their component parts, in their annual defense bill. They may drop it entirely over an amendment, filed by Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, that would consign any Iranian group that kills an American citizen with a drone to the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations for a decade, Politico reported Wednesday, citing two people familiar with the matter.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the act in June, but Senators found it convenient to include it in the fiscal year National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
The NDAA debate process has been unusually opaque under Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, Victoria Coates, a former Trump administration national security advisor and now senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, explained to the DCNF. It is “perfectly possible that in various backroom deals that are going on, majority Committee staff in both Houses are using procedural tricks to block important amendments such as those related to Iran for partisan gain,” she added.
However, even proponents of the bill would prefer to strike it from this year’s enormous defense budget in hopes they can salvage any remaining leverage to convince Iran to return to the nuclear deal, Politico reported.
Biden reportedly decided not to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran’s elite paramilitary force implicated in much of the country’s gray zone style warfare throughout the world, from the terrorist list despite Iranian pressure as part of the nuclear deal negotiations, according to Politico. Nevertheless, other entities could be added to the list under Cruz’ amendment, especially as Iranian drones show up in Ukraine.
The Ways and Means Committee has told congressional aides that a “blue slip” rule, which requires bills that affect federal funding originate in the House, is responsible for stymieing the Stop Iranian Drones Act, according to Politico. Fixing the issue would further delay the NDAA passage.
“The Biden administration and supporters of the Iran nuclear deal are tying themselves into strategic knots,” Goldberg told the DCNF.
The Ways and Means Committee did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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