Top Republican House members gave a cold reception Sunday to the tentative agreement with Iran to free five imprisoned Iranian-Americans — fearing it’ll lead to the Biden administration reviving the US nuclear deal with Tehran.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner noted on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” that Congress has yet to be briefed on specifics of the proposed prisoner deal, which would free up $6 billion in Iranian assets from South Korea.
“The administration has signaled that the release of these detainees is part of a broader negotiation with respect to reinstating some controls on the nuclear weapons and enrichment programs of Iran, dating back to the JCPOA,” the Ohio Republican said, referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
JCPOA — also known as the Iran nuclear deal — was brokered under the Obama administration and imposed temporary limits on Tehran’s program in exchange for sanctions relief.
Then-President Donald Trump ultimately withdrew from the agreement in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions on Iran.
“The concern is that the New York Times has reported that the [Biden] administration may be pursuing an informal deal as opposed to the formal deal that we had before that had congressional oversight,” Turner warned Sunday.
“We don’t want a secret deal with Iran,” he said.
Under the recent proposed agreement, Iran will release the American detainees in exchange for access to its $6 billion in assets and the freedom of an unknown number of Iranian nationals detained in the US.
The $6 billion would be funneled from South Korea to Qatar, which will oversee how Iran utilizes the funds.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul argued on Fox News that $6 billion is a sharp increase from the $400 million in Iranian assets that were unfrozen as part of the JCPOA.
“By the way, we’re talking about $6 billion dollars right? $6 billion. Under Obama, it was $400 million of cash and airplanes that went into Iran,” the Texas Republican told Shannon Bream on “Fox News Sunday.”
“They are now starting to talk about the JCPOA all over again, which in my judgement, will lead us down a course to a legal nuclear bomb and Iran,” he added.
McCaul also cautioned that the $6 billion could help further Iran’s “proxy war, terror operations and their nuclear bomb aspirations” in the region.
Both McCaul and Turner underscored that they want to get the American detainees home as soon as possible, but raised concerns about the potential repercussions.
Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, defended the Biden administration over the proposed agreement.
“There’s a fundamental misunderstanding of what’s going on here. The money that’s going from Korea to Iran is money from oil that Iran sold to Korea,” Smith told “Fox News Sunday.”
He noted that about a half dozen other nations, such as Italy and India, wound up compensating Iran during the Trump administration for oil despite past sanction snarls.
“It will be controlled by Qatar, not by Iran,” he added. “So that aspect of it makes sense. We’re still waiting to see what the prisoner swap looks like and to finalize the deal.”
Smith also pondered why there weren’t more grumblings during the Trump administration when “money from a bunch of other countries was being transferred to Iran.”
Neda Sharghi, the sister of Emad Shargi, one of the Iranian detainees, has credited the Biden administration for the deal.
“I wish they had done it sooner,” Emad Sharghi says of the Biden administration’s agreement with Iran for the release of detained Americans, including her brother, Emad. “But they’re doing it now. I want them to finish this and bring my brother home,” she tells @margbrennan. pic.twitter.com/bdZFhQepVU
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) August 13, 2023
“I wish they had done it sooner,” Emad said on “Face the Nation.”
“But they’re doing it now,” she added. “I want them to finish this and bring my brother home.”
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