There appears to be an increasingly wide rift developing in Washington between conservative Iran hawks and Iran lesser-hawks. The issue is whether the United States should fully let expire the next batch of oil waivers for the fanatical jihadist regime that governs the Islamic Republic of Iran. The rift exposes Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and a small handful of other Republican senators, alongside National Security Advisor John Bolton, on one side, and the institutional U.S. State Department — embodied by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — on the other side.
In a letter to President Donald Trump this week, a group of Republican senators demanded that Secretary of State Michael Pompeo stop letting Iran continue its limited civilian nuclear research program.
At issue are three waivers the Trump administration granted after it withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal last year. They allow Iran to work with nations that remain in the deal at three sites — Fordow, Bushehr and Arak — to ensure it doesn’t seek to enrich uranium to high levels. It’s part of an effort to limit the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation.
In their April 9 letter to Trump, six Republican senators including Ted Cruz of Texas, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Marco Rubio of Florida argued that the administration shouldn’t extend the waivers when they expire in early May.
"There is extensive evidence Iran channeled its nuclear weapons program through civil nuclear projects after 2003," the senators wrote. ... They urged the president to "finally end all U.S. implementation" of the 2015 deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
The Daily Wire received a copy of the senators' letter, courtesy of a Republican staffer. The letter urges the Trump Administration to take four concrete steps: (1) once and for all end all U.S. implementation of the Iran deal by refusing to reissue waivers permitting civil nuclear work, (2) urge the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to reopen its file on the possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear program, (3) properly designate all Iranian entities named in the Israeli government's previously seized nuclear archive from Tehran, and (4) explicitly reference the aforementioned nuclear archive in the Trump Administration's upcoming report to Congress on "Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments."
At least on issue (2), it seems like the senators may be fighting an uphill battle. As The Daily Wire reported last month, the IAEA tends to be less than forthcoming on the issue of Iran's hegemonic nuclearization ambitions:
On Monday in Vienna, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Yukiya Amano hedged hard when asked about the extent of the Iranian regime's prior nuclear activity. Specifically, Amano said that he could "not speak of" such previous activity — effectively refusing to confirm or deny that the Islamic Republic has engaged in prior nuclearization efforts.
At The Federalist last month, Erielle Davidson persuasively argued Cruz and his fellow senators are correct to push for a full evisceration of Iran's oil waivers:
Waivers have been used as a balm to protect Iran from economic collapse following President Trump’s exit from the Iran Deal and the swift reinstatement of sanctions this past November. The Trump administration has expressed aims of removing Iranian crude exports entirely from the market very soon, but arguments within the State Department questioning the feasibility of such an aim have garnered suspicion. ...
The waivers have allowed Iran to continue to rake in billions of dollars, thus enabling the country—and the repressive regime—to stave off economic collapse. Many experts on both sides of the Iran debate think Iran is positioned to wait out the Trump administration’s pressure campaign, perhaps indefinitely, unless the Iranian economy sustains a dramatic shock.
Sen. Cruz has made hawkishness on Iran a centerpiece of his foreign policy profile. As I argued in a Daily Wire op-ed in February:
Since joining the U.S. Senate in 2013, Cruz's foreign policy has consistently been in the wide chasm between Ron Paul-style isolationism and Dick Cheney-style moralistic interventionism. Cruz has been blisteringly hawkish on true national security threats to the United States and our core allies — his stances on the Shiite supremacist Iranian terror regime mullocracry and the Sunni supremacist Islamism of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas alike both come to mind — but as a doctrinal rule, he has generally been warier of the risk of prolonged military deployments.