The Takeaway: Republicans step up pressure on Iran in 2023

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Republicans on track to wrest control of the House of Representatives plan to use their agenda-setting powers in the lower chamber next year to hammer the president Joe Biden on Iran and undermine already fading prospects for a renewed nuclear deal.

Republican lawmakers are expected to introduce a wave of standalone bills, as well as measures in the annual National Defense Authorization Act, aimed at further punishing Iran’s rights abusers and hindering the generation of illicit revenue.

A senior Republican congressional aide familiar with the effort predicted some bipartisan support for including provisions in bills that would require enforcement action and additional human rights and terrorism-related sanctions, including against entities and individuals associated with the Islamic State. Revolutionary Guards 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 stuff and have spoken out, but the Democratic leaders never put sanctions on Iran on the ground,” the aide said of the political realignment. “We can bring a lot more of this stuff to the president than people realize.”

A number of skeptical Democrats up for re-election last week kept their seats, including New Jersey representatives. Josh Gottheimer and Donald Norcross. And they have a powerful ally in the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 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 erupted in September over the death of a 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, along with its support for Russia’s war in Ukraine, prospects for a revived nuclear deal have dampened.

The Biden administration has unleashed a wave of sanctions designed to punish the Iranian government for its treatment of the protesters, the most recent of which involves six senior employees of the state broadcaster IRIB. Other sanctions targeted Iran’s morality police, Revolutionary Guards commanders and prison officials. The government has also gone after companies that have transferred Iranian armed drones to Russia.

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Congressional Republicans believe the US should further show its disapproval by ending the JCPOA talks for good. But US officials, including Biden’s Iranian envoy Robert Malleysay diplomacy remains the best way to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, even if the deal is off the agenda for now.

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

“Expect Republicans to insist on the inconsistency between words and actions of the Biden administration on Iran: that one cannot assist the Iranian people while holding in reserve a deal that enriches their oppressors,” Taleblu said.

Republicans won’t wait until next year to make their case. In a letter to the Secretary of State Anthony Blink on Monday Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) and five other GOP lawmakers urged him to close the door on a revived JCPOA.

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

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‘None of Us Knew’: Israeli Officials Reject FBI Investigation

Israeli officials were blindsided by reports that the US Justice Department is investigating the death of a Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Aklehwhom the Biden administration determined “probably” died from accidental Israeli gunfire.

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“We didn’t see it coming,” a senior Israeli security source said Ben Caspit. “It just happened, and at this point 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, Pentagon and National Security Council, but received little clarification about the investigation.

Neither do journalists. The U.S. Justice Department has not yet commented on the reports, and at the State Department’s briefing yesterday, deputy spokesman Vedante Patel took pains to avoid confirming the existence of the investigation or discussing it with US and Israeli officials.

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

A congressional assistant for senator Chris van Hollenthe Maryland Democrat who previously oversaw direct U.S. involvement in any investigation said his office has contacted the Justice Department to confirm reports of an investigation but has not received any confirmation as a matter of policy.

The US blames Iran for the attack on an Israeli tanker

The White House wasted little time assigning blame for a suspected Iranian drone attack on an Israeli-affiliated commercial oil tanker off the coast of Oman late Tuesday evening.

“We are convinced that Iran probably carried out this attack using a [unmanned aerial vehicle]a deadly capability that it is increasingly using directly and through its proxies in the Middle East and spreading to Russia for use in Ukraine,” National Security Adviser Jack Sullivan said in a statement Wednesday.

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The US central command said Iran had used a one-way Shahed series drone in the attack. Russia is said to have 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 Yemen-bound fishing boat departing from Iran with more than 70 tons of rocket propellant on board. As Jared Szuba reports, the first-of-its-kind aluminum perchlorate seizure is a rare victory in the US Navy’s years-long cat-and-mouse game with Iranian-backed arms dealers off the coast of Yemen, suggesting the Fifth Fleet’s redoubled efforts are beginning to pay off to throw off.

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