Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee expressed skepticism about a new Iran nuclear deal after a classified briefing Wednesday by Biden administration officials.
The United States on Tuesday said it awaited a constructive response from Iran on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal that excludes "extraneous" issues, a possible reference to Iran's demand that its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) be dropped from a U.S. terrorism list.
Legislators, however, were pessimistic regarding the likelihood of a new deal, Jewish Insider reported.
"In fairness to the administration, their view is they're having no talks. They haven't had talks since March. So for all intents and purposes, there are no talks," Committee Chair Bob Menendez, D-N.J., told Jewish Insider. "The question is whether leaving the door open to the potential deal … is that something that's desirable as a strategic position."
Menendez recently said it was time for the Biden administration and European allies to end nuclear negotiations with Iran.
Former President Donald Trump pulled out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2018, saying it "failed to protect America's national security interests."
Politico reported that officials in the briefing said that they were considering increasing sanctions on Iran.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told reporters that Iran likely will become a nuclear power regardless of whether an agreement is reached.
"I think the question with a deal is whether they'll have more money to do it faster," Rubio said. "There may not be a way to keep a government that's determined to build a nuclear capability from acquiring it eventually. Unfortunately, that's the real world that we live in."
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said the administration's Iran policy was "an absolute dumpster fire," Jewish Insider said.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., a proponent of the JCPOA, appeared increasingly pessimistic about the chances for the U.S. to re-enter the deal.
"Obviously the chances of a breakthrough are much smaller today than they were six months ago," Murphy told Jewish Insider. "I still don't see any path to protecting the region from a potentially nuclear-armed Iran other than diplomacy."
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said he hoped the Biden administration remained committed to talks with Iran.
"We want to make sure that we get an agreement, but on our terms," Van Hollen said. Jewish Insider reported "I think it's still a possibility and I think the Iranians have some tough choices to make."
Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., an ally of President Joe Biden, said Iran's demands "are gravely concerning, and I'm not optimistic about the path forward."
Politico reported that Wednesday's briefing featured Brett McGurk, the White House's top Middle East official, and Rob Malley, the top envoy for the Iran talks.
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