(CNSNews.com) – The U.S. Senate on Wednesday voted 62-33 to pass a motion calling for any nuclear agreement with Iran to address the regime’s other malign behavior, including its ballistic missiles and terror sponsorship, and not to lift the terror designation on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Fifteen Democrats and one independent joined most Republicans in voting for the motion by Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.). One critic of the Iranian regime described the result as a “devastating bipartisan rejection” of the Biden administration’s Iran policy.
Lankford’s measure is a “motion to instruct” House and Senate conferees considering long-stalled China competition legislation, to require any agreement negotiated with Iran to address Chinese purchases of Iranian oil in violation of sanctions.
But it goes further, targeting two specific areas in a way that could complicate the administration’s efforts to return both the U.S. and Iran to compliance with the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
The measure calls for the regime’s “destabilizing activities,” such as its missiles program and terrorism, to be addressed in any deal; and it bars any reversal of the Trump administration’s 2019 designation of the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO).
The regime insisted from the outset – successfully – that non-nuclear issues be excluded from the nuclear talks that produced the JCPOA. It has made clear over the past year that any return to the deal will be on the same basis.
The regime is also now pushing for a removal of the IRGC’s FTO designation, a key condition for its return to compliance. (Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during testimony on Capitol Hill last week that the IRGC would have to stop support for terrorism in order to be delisted.)
“Motions to instruct” are not binding on members of a conference committee working to resolve differences in House and Senate legislation. But they do give an indication of what senators want to see in a final bill if they are to vote in favor of it.
“I want the conferees to hear from the Senate that we do not want the United States to make a nuclear deal with Iran that ignores their past behavior and their present intentions,” Lankford said in an earlier statement. “This is a moment for Congress to push the Administration to demonstrate strength through decisive action, not weakness through negotiating with terrorist regimes.”
In brief remarks on the Senate floor before the vote, Lankford noted that the regime is “specifically” pushing for the IRGC to be delisted as an FTO.
“That is the group that was attacking our troops in Iraq and facilitating their deaths,” he said, saying the issue needs to be addressed and taken “off the table.”
Opposing the motion, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said it amounted to an endorsement of the Trump administration’s Iran policy, which he described as “a complete, total failure.”
He said the Trump policy of “maximum pressure” on the regime had not worked “and to apply it prospectively would be ruinous.”
Richard Goldberg, a senior advisor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and former National Security Council official, described the Senate’s consideration of the motion as essentially a proxy vote on the Biden administration’s Iran policy.
“No way to describe tonight’s Senate vote as anything other than devastating bipartisan rejection of Biden administration’s Russia-brokered Iran nuclear deal,” he tweeted afterwards.
Reaction also came from the Washington-based National Iranian American Council (NIAC), which advocates engagement with the regime and is a firm supporter of the JCPOA.
“This was a non-binding vote, but it should be a wake-up call for the Biden administration that the deal won’t save itself,” said NIAC policy director Ryan Costello. “If President Biden wants to save the agreement, roll back Iran’s nuclear program and prevent a war, then he has to fight for it.”
The 15 Democrats who supported the motion, according to the roll, were Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Cory Booker (N.J.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Chris Coons (Del.), Catherine Cortez Masto (Nev.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Margaret Hassan (N.H.), Mark Kelly (Ariz.), Joe Manchin (W.V.), Gary Peters (Mich.), Jacky Rosen (Nev.), Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), Jon Tester (Mont.), and Ron Wyden (Ore.). They were joined by independent Sen. Angus King (Maine).
The motion was supported by all Republicans who voted, with the exception of Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).
Five senators did not vote – Republicans Roy Blunt (Mo.), James Risch (Idaho) and Richard Shelby (Ala.), and Democrats Bob Menendez (N.J.) and Michael Bennet (Colo.).
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