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US: Dozens of lawmakers renew push to halt Iran nuclear deal

Nearly 50 Senators and members of Congress introduce bill that would prevent lifting of sanctions on Iran
US Senator Joni Ernst led the introduction of the Preventing Underhanded and Nefarious Iranian Supported Homicides Act.
US Senator Joni Ernst led the introduction of the Preventing Underhanded and Nefarious Iranian Supported Homicides Act (AFP/File photo)
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Washington

Nearly 50 Republicans in the US Congress have renewed an effort to halt a return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal by preventing the Biden administration from lifting sanctions on Tehran.

Senator Joni Ernst and Congressman Mike Waltz, along with 25 Senate Republican and 20 House Republican co-sponsors, on Wednesday introduced the Preventing Underhanded and Nefarious Iranian Supported Homicides (Punish) Act.

If passed, the legislation would prevent the withdrawal of US sanctions on Iran until Secretary of State Antony Blinken certifies to Congress that Iran had not supported any attempts to kill US citizens or Iranians living in the country for at least five years.

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"It's hard to fathom that, after countless attacks on Americans, and multiple confirmed plots against U.S. officials, the Biden administration continues to cozy up to Iran in hopes of a mythical, so-called nuclear deal," Ernst said in a statement.

"President Biden should not provide a dime of sanctions relief to the largest state sponsor of terrorism, which is actively trying to kill U.S. officials and citizens, at home and abroad."

In August, author Salman Rushdie was stabbed on stage during an event in New York, and police detained a 24-year-old named Hadi Mattar and charged him with attempted murder.

Several intelligence officials suggested that Matar had been in "direct contact" with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) - an influential paramilitary body in the country - before the attack, according to VICE World News.

However, Iran denied any involvement in the attack on Rushdie, who had previously received a fatwa for his assassination by the former religious leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini.

Tehran has long distanced itself from former leader Ayatollah Khomeini's decree.

Last year, US police charged four people over a plot to kidnap prominent Iranian-American women's rights activist Masih Alinejad. Iran also denied any involvement in that case.

The US has also accused a member of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps of plotting to assassinate former national security adviser John Bolton.

"The Biden Administration has a duty to protect its citizens from the Iran Regime's proxies who have already carried out an attack on Salman Rushdie, plotted an assassination against former National Security Advisor John Bolton," Waltz said.

"Maximum pressure sanctions must be retained against the Iranian Regime."

Iran nuclear talks

The new bill is the latest congressional effort to prevent a return to the Iran nuclear deal.

After a year-and-a-half of indirect talks with Iran, a final draft agreement has been created by the European Union, but the talks have stalled as several sticking points continue to take hold.

In addition to Iran seeking a guarantee that the US would stick to the deal, Tehran has also called for an end to an investigation by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) into three Iranian nuclear sites revolving around unexplained nuclear particles.

At the UN General Assembly on Wednesday, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi attacked Washington's commitment to returning to the deal.

"Can we truly trust without guarantees and assurances that [the US] will this time live up to their commitment?" Raisi said, referring to the decision by the administration of Donald Trump to unilaterally withdraw from the deal in 2018.

On Thursday, the US issued a new set of sanctions on Iran, this time targeting their morality police, the heads of the army's ground forces, and Iran's minister of intelligence.

It held the morality police responsible for the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, who died in custody last week after being arrested in Tehran for wearing "unsuitable attire". Amini's death has sparked widespread protests across the country on an unusually large scale.