Republican offensive will complicate Obama’s bid to implement Iran deal

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Republicans in Congress intend to hold Iran accountable on several fronts where lawmakers say the Obama administration has delayed action or failed to act.

This week, Republicans held five separate committee meetings aimed at shining a light on Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal, its recent missile tests, human rights violations and locating and freeing missing former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who disappeared in Iran in 2007.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Edward Royce. /Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Edward Royce. /Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb. 9, said he was “confident” U.S. intelligence would be able to detect any violation or deviation from the nuclear agreement.

Clapper said there are “many other things” Iran could do “in a nuclear context that serves to enhance their technology and their expertise,” especially in the area of research and development.

Some Democrats who voted against the deal are joining the GOP’s efforts to ensure Iran is in compliance.

“I don’t think it’s helpful to keep having bills that try to abrogate or get rid of what’s already been negotiated. But what we do need to focus on now is holding Iran’s feet to the fire,” said Rep. Eliot Engel, New York Democrat and ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Some Democrats said the Obama administration did not move fast enough to sanction Iran after two ballistic missile tests in apparent violation of UN Security Council resolutions.

Republicans have floated the idea of reauthorizing the Iran Sanctions Act, which includes a regime of nuclear, missile and terrorism sanctions on Iran’s trade, energy, defense and banking sectors.

Lawmakers said it was a good idea to keep the sanctions act as an option after Obama waived some provisions of the law after the nuclear deal was implemented.

Many Republicans believe Obama’s concessions on the Iran deal will embolden Teheran’s hard-liners to take actions such as demanding “ransom” for American prisoners and pouring millions of dollars into terror proxies such as Hizbullah.

Analysts are looking at the Feb. 26 elections in Iran as an indication of how the nuclear deal is playing in the Islamic republic and whether it will swing support toward moderates or hard-liners. Iran’s Guardian Council has reportedly already blocked several reform-minded candidates from participating.