Good morning. Congress is back from recess this week, and members are going to be busy. Gun policy talks are continuing in the Senate, the House is gearing up for the January 6 Committee’s public hearing on Thursday night, and members are having important annual subcommittee meetings this week as they work on this year’s defense authorization package.
Iran Talks Receive Hill Pushback
Few policy issues pit President Joe Biden against leading lawmakers of his own party, but the United States’ Iran policy—a lightning rod in American politics since the Islamic Republic’s inception in 1979—is certainly among them. For more than a year, the president and administration officials have sought to convince reluctant congressional allies that halting Iran’s nuclear program requires a diplomatic approach.
Amid a growing list of bold demands by Tehran and technological advances in its enrichment processes, however, ongoing talks in Vienna to revive the Obama-era nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), now appear stalled with little hope of a breakthrough. And recent testimony by the United States’ leading negotiator, as well as discoveries by the United Nations’ atomic watchdog, have done little to put lawmakers’ minds at ease.
Last week, two leaked reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed perhaps the most alarming milestone yet: Iran has stockpiled roughly enough uranium enriched to 60 percent to build a nuclear weapon. The stash puts Iranian officials just weeks from reaching the quantity of weapons-grade uranium necessary to construct a bomb should they choose to enrich further, to 90 percent.