‘Biden’s put national security at risk’: GOP lawmaker slams president after three of his team negotiating with Iran on nuclear deal RESIGN because US is being too soft and calls for him to revert to Trump’s ‘maximum pressure’ policy
- Republican Rep. Michael Waltz praised the negotiators who have stepped back for 'recognizing when diplomacy is getting too desperate'
- Waltz has had his own experience in the Middle East as an Army Green Beret
- State Department official confirmed Tuesday that Richard Nephew stood down
- He was U.S. Deputy Special Envoy for Iran and known as sanctions architect
- Nephew, who wanted Biden to take a harder stance against Iran, has reportedly been avoiding the meetings in Vienna since December
- At the same time, reports emerged that two other negotiators had left
- It comes at a critical time in negotiations between the West and Tehran
- Iran has rejected talk of an interim agreement and wants a legal guarantee that the U.S. will not walk away from the nuclear deal
- It also won't negotiate directly with the US, with European intermediaries
A Republican member of Congress on Tuesday praised three Biden administration officials who walked away from their roles on the State Department's nuclear talks with Iran.
Rep. Michael Waltz of Florida, who served in the Middle East as one of the Army's elite Green Berets, told DailyMail.com their departure at a critical junction of the discussions is a reflection of President Joe Biden's policies putting 'national security at risk.'
A State Department official confirmed that Richard Nephew, known as the architect of sanctions on Tehran, had stepped down as U.S. Deputy Special Envoy for Iran after urging a tougher stance on nuclear talks.
At the same time, the Wall Street Journal reported that two other negotiators had stepped aside from their positions because they wanted a harder negotiating position.
Waltz joined their call on Tuesday by urging Biden to return to his predecessor Donald Trump's 'policy of maximum pressure' against Tehram's regime.
'It’s good to see some officials recognize when diplomacy gets too desperate and begins to really put American national security at risk,' the Florida Republican said.
'The Biden Administration should revert back to a policy of maximum pressure that focused on holding the Iran regime accountable for their nuclear capabilities, missile development, and regional terrorism and build on Abraham Accords to counter Iran’s aggression.'
A State Department official confirmed that Richard Nephew was no longer deputy special envoy for Iran but was still working at the State Department
THE FATHER OF US SANCTIONS ON IRAN WHO STORMED OUT OF NUCLEAR NEGOTIATIONS
Richard Nephew, the Deputy Special Envoy for the State Department's negotiations with Iran, left his role after urging the Biden administration to take a tougher stance in the nuclear talks.
Widely regarded as an expert on sanctions policy, Nephew was named the Principal Deputy Coordinator for Sanctions Policy in Barack Obama's State Department in January 2013.
In the role he engineered sanctions against Iran that helped forced Tehran into signing the historic JCPOA, and was involved in the talks from August 2013 to December 2014.
He reportedly thought the United States was taking too soft an approach to an Iran that not only rebuffed agreements its previous government made but is also building up its nuclear capabilities at a break-neck pace.
It led to a disagreement over the direction of the talks with his boss, US Special Representative for Iran Robert Malley.
He'll continue to serve in the State Department albeit in a different role, according to NBC News.
Before joining the Biden administration, Nephew was a nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institute and a senior research scholar at Columbia University's Center on Global Energy Policy.
He also authored a book in 2017 on the role sanctions play in foreign policy, titled The Art of Sanctions.
The negotiating team's policy differences reportedly involved the enforcement of existing sanctions and even pulling out of the talks altogether.
Their departures, another blow to President Joe Biden's foreign policy goals and a State Department grappling with Russian diplomats who appear poised for conflict in Ukraine, come at a critical time in talks that resumed two months ago.
Western diplomats say they hope for a breakthrough in the coming weeks - but critical differences remain between the two sides and Britain on Tuesday warned of a looming impasse.
Meanwhile the Biden administration has been grappling with bipartisan criticism at home that it's taken too soft a stance against Iran as the Middle Eastern nation builds up its nuclear capabilities at breakneck speed.
A State Department official declined to comment on the specifics of internal policy discussions.
'The previous administration left us with a terrible set of choices on Iran,' he said.
'Maximum pressure failed, leaving Iran with a rapidly expanding nuclear program and a more aggressive regional posture. At the same time, we were isolated from many of our closest allies and partners.
'Working our way out of this crisis requires many difficult, closely balanced decisions, on which there can be reasonable disagreement.'
Nephew, who wanted Biden to take a harder stance against Iran, has reportedly been avoiding the meetings in Vienna since December.
That same month, senior American officials involved in the talks began pushing for an end after Iran sent in a new negotiating team that reneged on most concessions made by its previous officials, sources close to the discussion told the Journal.
The result was reportedly difference of opinion within the U.S. team about whether to halt talks in the face of Iran's foot-dragging and how firmly to enforce existing sanctions.
Under the terms of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, sanctions were lifted in return for limits on Iran's nuclear program.
When President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions in 2018, Iran returned to enriching uranium.
The Biden administration believes the best way forward is a return to the 2015 deal.
Iran says it also wants a return to the deal, but has rejected talk of an interim agreement in the meantime and wants a legal guarantee that the U.S. will not walk away from the JCPOA again.
The British Foreign Secretary spelled out the scale of the problem on Tuesday.
'This negotiation is urgent and progress has not been fast enough. We continue to work in close partnership with our allies but the negotiations are reaching a dangerous impasse,' Liz Truss told the British parliament.
Nuclear talks resumed in Vienna, Austria, in November but have made little progress. Iran refuses to talk directly with American negotiators. As a result European diplomats have to carry communications between separate rooms but the effort has stalled
The Trump administration withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018, saying its destabilizing impact in the Middle East and developments in rocket technology put Iran in breach
Talks on returning to the 2015 nuclear deal abandoned by the Trump administration resumed in Vienna last year, under the direction of Antony Blinken's State Department.
However, they have been complicated by Tehran's refusal to talk directly with American officials. Instead, communications are shuttled between separate rooms by European diplomats.
But with the clock ticking, Western officials fear it is only a matter of weeks before Iran obtains the material and know-how to produce enough fuel for a nuclear bomb.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss on Tuesday told lawmakers that negotiations were 'reaching a dangerous impasse' and told Iran it must decide if it wants a deal
'Iran must now choose whether it wants to conclude a deal or be responsible for the collapse of the JCPOA.
'And if the JCPOA collapses, all options are on the table.'
Iran has been building up its nuclear capabilities at an alarming rate despite multiple attacks by Israeli operatives, including the assassination of one of Tehran's top nuclear scientists.
But Iran is still ramping up its aggression against the West to test Biden's resolve. On Monday, Iranian-backed rebels launched a rocket attack against a U.S. military base in the United Arab Emirates.
And a recent report from late 2021 claims that Israel's attempts to destroy key Iranian nuclear facilities have not only led to their reconstruction but also with major improvements to their technology.
A top American official called it Iran's 'Build Back Better' plan, according to the New York Times.
Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn accused Biden of acquiescing to Iran on Tuesday after the reported setback in talks.
'Last week, Iran was the only member of the United Nations to vote against recognizing the Holocaust. The next day, the Biden administration gave Iran access to $18 million to fully re-enter the UN,' the Tennessee lawmaker wrote on Twitter.
And last year Waltz led a bipartisan 140-member effort in the House to urge Biden to take a 'comprehensive' approach in dealing with Iran.
Late last spring Iranians elected a new president, Ebrahim Raisi, a conservative former judge who is highly critical of the West.
Raisi has previously signaled a willingness to return to the nuclear deal, though his government's expansion of its nuclear capabilities throws doubt on whether he meant it.
Iran's Foreign Minister said on Monday that it was possible the nuclear talks could get to a stage where U.S. and Iranian negotiators can finally speak directly in one room.
'Reports saying that Iran and the U.S. are directly negotiating with one another are untrue,' Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said according to Al Jazeera.
'However, if we get to a stage where reaching a good deal with strong guarantees necessitates direct talks with the U.S., we will consider it.'
The State Department on Monday repeated that it is open to meeting with Iranian officials directly to discuss the nuclear deal, as well as other issues.
Senator Marsha Blackburn took aim at the Biden administration's handling of Iran on Tuesday after Nephew's departure
Foes test Biden on FOUR fronts: North Korea launches fifth missile test this month, Iran-backed militia attacks US base in UAE and US fleet keeps China in check as Putin threatens to invade Ukraine
Joe Biden is facing potential conflict of four fronts as he focuses on Russia's invasion of Ukraine but is being tested by North Korea, China and Iran.
The embattled president is considering deploying up to 50,000 US troops to Eastern Europe to ward off Russian aggression.
But as the issue consumes his time, energy and soon military forces, America's arch-foes appear to be testing him.
North Korea launched two cruise missiles tests on Tuesday, for the fifth time this month in a huge ramping up of their efforts.
Iran-backed rebels launched a rocket attack on an air base housing 2,000 US soldiers on Monday, forcing Patriot defense system to swing into action.
Two inbound missiles were knocked out of the sky.
And China is testing US resolve over Taiwan and free passage through the South China Straits to the extent that the US has deployed two aircraft carriers to the area to ensure that Beijing does not try to exploit the potential Ukraine invasion.
The USS Carl Vinson and Abraham Lincoln as well as a huge strike group are now on patrol in the South China Sea.
Embarrassingly, an F-35 stealth fighter crashed on landing on Monday and fell into the sea. The pilot ejected and seven sailors were injured.
Now there is a race to recover the state-of-the-art jet before Beijing gets to it.
Meanwhile, Biden's approval rating hit another grim record on Tuesday with a new poll placing him with just 39 percent of voters' support.
A separate survey suggested the president has lost the faith of Americans who largely think he does not care about them and is a weak leader, both dire outcomes just a year after he took office.
The under pressure president was forced to apologize to a reporter last night after he was caught calling him a 'son of a b***h' on a hot mic.
Members of Al Dhafra Air Base converse after the arrival of F-35A Lightning IIs assigned to the 4th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron
US military officials deployed the Patriot missile defense system, pictured above, to stave off the attacks
Before the Tuesday launch, Kim Jong-Un had launched had conducted four recent ballistic-missile tests.
At a meeting last week, which Kim attended, North Korea suggested it might restart tests for long-range and nuclear weapons, describing the threat from the U.S. as one the nation could no longer ignore.
Meanwhile, the U.S., together with the UAE military, was able to prevent two inbound missiles from hitting the air base.
The Iranian back-rebels said that the missiles were aimed at the Al-Dhafra Air Base in Abu Dhabi, where the U.S. Air Force's 38th Air Expeditionary Wing is based, and 2,000 military and civilian personnel are stationed.
The attack signaled a marked escalation in tensions. It was the second in a week aimed at the UAE, which is part of a Saudi-led coalition backing the Yemeni government that has been at war with the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels for years.
The U.S. too has backed the Saudi-led coalition since the start of the conflict.
Last week, the Houthis hit a fuel depot in Abu Dhabi, killing three people.
The Houthis have said they are retaliating agains the gulf state for backing militias thwarting their efforts to capture oil-producing regions in Yemen.
The Houthis have long launched attacks on Saudi Arabia, but the UAE has until recently served as a safe haven in the region.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the attack was a 'troubling escalation' of violence, and the department issued a rare security advisory warning Americans in the UAE to 'maintain a high level of security awareness.'
Biden has faced growing pressure to designate the Houthis as a terrorist group. Nine GOP senators introduced legislation calling on the White House to reimpose the terrorist designation after the last fuel depot attack, and some Democrats reportedly see wisdom in the move.
Biden removed the Houthis from the terrorist list last February, reversing a Trump-era decision.
Iran, via proxies, has launched a series of attacks targeting the U.S. presence in the Middle East in recent weeks.
Since the start of the year, Iranian-backed groups have launched drone and missile attacks aimed at U.S. forces in Iraq, following the second anniversary of the U.S. strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassim Soleimani and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
At least four rockets targeted the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone on Jan. 13, two Iraqi security officials said.
Days before that, a series of attacks targeted American troops in Iraq and Syria. Rockets struck an Iraqi military base hosting U.S. troops in western Anbar province and the capital.
The Chinese launched a show of force by flying dozens of warplanes near Taiwan on Sunday, just as the U.S. sailed two aircraft carriers and a pair of amphibious assault ships alongside allies in the South China Sea.
The demonstration alarmed Taiwan, which sent radio warnings and sent air combat patrol to deter the Chinese aircraft, and deployed air missile defense systems to monitor them.
Image aired by North Korea state television shows the test firing of railway-borne missile
The U.S. sailed two aircraft carriers and a pair of amphibious assault ships alongside allies in the South China Sea
Seven U.S. sailors were injured Monday during a 'landing mishap' by a F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Jet aboard the USS Carl Vinson in the South China Sea
China claims Taiwan as part of its territory while the island democracy claims its own sovereignty. The two territories split in 1949. The U.S. does not formally recognize Taiwan but supports its democratic government.
Beijing has renewed its encroachment on the territory in recent months, and President Xi Jinping has called for a 'peaceful reunification.' Xi has sent dozens of warplanes near Taiwan's defense zone.
But Biden's main focus has been on escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine. Vladimir Putin has amassed 100,000 troops at the Ukraine border and is believed to be considering invading the neighboring democracy.
Russia is also due to start its own massive naval exercise later this month involving more than 140 warships and more than 60 aircraft.
Satellite image shows buildup of Russian forces at the Ukraine border
Russian forces arrive in Belarus amid escalating tensions with Ukraine
And in a signal of U.S.-Russia tensions reminiscent of the Cold War, Biden is deploying the USS Harry Truman to the Mediterranean Sea, deploying the ship under NATO control for the first time since that era.
On Monday the U.S. informed 8,500 troops at home to be ready to deploy to Eastern Europe if the need arises.
Biden is considering deploying up to 50,000 US troops as well as aircraft and warships to eastern Europe to counter a Russian military build-up that has sparked fears Vladimir Putin is about to invade Ukraine.
The plan would see between 1,000 and 5,000 soldiers sent to NATO nations such as Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, which border Russian territory.
Troop numbers could then be increased up to 50,000 if the security situation deteriorates, backed up by fresh deployments of ships and aircraft.
Pentagon officials presented the plan to Biden during a summit at Camp David over the weekend, convened to discuss military options to deter an attack by Russia after the threat of sanctions largely fell on deaf ears.
The plan would not involve American troops deployed directly to Ukraine, with Biden thought to be loathe to enter another conflict following his disastrous withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan last year, The New York Times reports.
An NBC News report notes that other options presented to Biden ahead of an invasion were sending bomber flights over the region, ship visits into the Black Sea and moving troops and equipment from other parts of Europe into Poland, Romania and other countries that neighbor Ukraine.
Biden is due to make a call on military measures as soon as this week, the Times detailed, even as high-level talks between Washington and Moscow continue - with the U.S. due to submit a written response to Russian security demands.
The Times claims this presents a change in Biden's strategy, claiming 'the administration is now moving away from its do-not-provoke [Russia] strategy.'
And as the president deals with foreign policy crises on all fronts, his poll numbers reflect a lack of confidence back at home.
A January Harvard CAPS/Harris survey found Biden's job approval at 39 percent, the lowest he's scored in the poll since sampling first began back in March.
His disapproval rating has climbed to 53 percent, up two points from the previous poll.
Forty-year high inflation and a continuing coronavirus pandemic have left many Americans with little faith in the president's abilities.
Biden met with European world leaders on Monday in a hastily-announced video call to discuss the worsening situation between Russia and Ukraine.
Leaders from the European Union, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, and the United Kingdom were also on the call, which lasted about 90 minutes, and Biden said there was 'total unanimity' about the situation in the Ukraine - although he declined to provide more details on what they agreed upon.