The Takeaway: Republicans will increase pressure on Iran in 2023

Republicans on track to take control of the House of Representatives plan to use their agenda-setting powers in the lower house next year to hammer the president Joe Biden on Iran and jeopardize the already bleak prospects for a new nuclear deal.

Republican lawmakers are expected to introduce a flurry of stand-alone bills, along with measures in the annual National Defense Authorization Act, aimed at further punishing violators of Iran’s rights and preventing its generation of illicit revenue .

A senior Republican congressional official familiar with the efforts predicted some bipartisan support for inserting provisions into must-have bills that would require additional enforcement and penalties related to human rights and terrorism, including against entities and individuals associated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran, the Central Bank of Iran and the National Iranian Oil Company.

“There are a lot of Democrats who wanted to vote for Iran and made their voices heard, but Democratic leaders never imposed sanctions on Iran,” the aide said of the political realignment. “We can provide a lot more of these things to the president than people realize.”

A number of nuclear-skeptical Democrats who were up for re-election last week retained their seats, including representatives from New Jersey. Josh Gottheimer and Donald Norcross. And they have a powerful ally in the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the senator. Bob Menendez, a longtime critic of the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Iran’s continued crackdown on nationwide protests that erupted in September over the death of a 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, as well as his support for Russia’s war in Ukraine, have clouded prospects for reviving the nuclear deal.

The Biden administration has unleashed a wave of sanctions intended to punish the Iranian government for its treatment of protesters, the most recent of which include designations on six senior executives of public broadcaster IRIB. Other sanctions have targeted Iran’s morality police, Revolutionary Guard commanders and prison officials. The administration also after business transfer of Iranian armed drones to Russia.

Congressional Republicans argue that the United States should further demonstrate its disapproval by permanently leaving the JCPOA talks. But US officials, including Biden’s Iranian envoy Rob Malleysay diplomacy remains the best way to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, even if the deal is not on the agenda at the moment.

Behnam Ben Taleblusenior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank in Washington, predicts a deadly rhetorical battle over the Biden administration’s refusal to abandon nuclear talks altogether.

“Expect Republicans to insist on the inconsistency between the Biden administration’s words and deeds on Iran: that you cannot support the Iranian people while holding back a deal that enriches its oppressors,” Taleblu said.

Republicans aren’t waiting until next year to make their case. In a letter to the Secretary of State Antoine Blinken Monday, Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) And five other GOP lawmakers have urged him to close the door on a revived JCPOA.

“Continuing to negotiate with a regime that came to the table in bad faith is a waste of time,” they wrote.

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‘None of us knew:’ Israeli officials slam FBI investigation

Israeli officials caught off guard by reports that the US Justice Department is investigating the death of an American-Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Aklehwho the Biden administration determined “probably” dead by accidental Israeli fire.

“We didn’t see it coming,” an Israeli security source said. Ben Caspit. “It just happened, and at the moment we have no idea what’s behind it.”

Caspit reports that senior Israeli officials made urgent calls to their US counterparts at the State Department, the Pentagon and the National Security Council, but received little clarification on the investigation.

Neither do journalists. The US Department of Justice has yet to comment on the information, and at yesterday’s State Department briefing, Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel bothered to avoid confirming the existence of the investigation or whether US and Israeli officials had talked about it.

The State Department said in July that US officials had determined that a bullet fired from Israeli military lines was “probably responsible” for the death of Abu Akleh, but the recovered bullet was too badly damaged to reach a conclusion. a definitive conclusion on the source of the shots.

A congressional aide for the senator Chris Van Hollenthe Maryland Democrat who previously led the push for direct U.S. involvement in any investigation, said his office contacted the Justice Department to confirm investigative reports, but received no confirmation as a matter of principle.

US accuses Iran of attacking Israeli tanker

The White House wasted little time blame for an alleged Iranian drone attack on an Israel-linked commercial tanker off the coast of Oman on Tuesday evening.

“We are convinced that Iran likely carried out this attack using a [unmanned aerial vehicle]a lethal capability which it is increasingly using directly and through its proxies throughout the Middle East and which is proliferating in Russia for use in Ukraine,” the national security adviser said. JakeSullivan said in a statement Wednesday.

US Central Command said Iran used a Shahed series one-way attack drone in the attack. Russia reportedly recently used the same Iranian-made drones in attacks on civilian infrastructure in Ukraine.

The apparent Iranian provocation in the Gulf of Oman on Tuesday comes after the US Navy intercepted a fishing boat bound for Yemen that had left Iran with more than 70 tons of missile fuel on board. As Jared Szuba reports, the first seizure of aluminum perchlorate is a rare victory in the US Navy’s game of cat-and-mouse with Iranian-backed arms smugglers off Yemen, suggesting that the Fifth Fleet’s redoubled efforts may be starting to pay off.

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