US Republicans Say Palestinian-Israeli Violence Justifies Iran ‘Maximum Pressure’
More than 40 Republican Senators have demanded the Biden administration "immediately" end participation in nuclear talks in Vienna over reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and commit to continue all current sanctions against Tehran as a "longtime financial and material supporter of Hamas."
Signatories include Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz, Bill Hagerty, Jim Inhofe and Marco Rubio. The letter, sent to the White House late Wednesday, argues that sanctions relief to Iran would “enrich” Israel's enemies. The Biden administration has said the draconian sanctions, the so-called ‘maximum pressure’, imposed by Republican President Donald Trump after leaving the 2015 nuclear deal will be eased if Tehran reverses steps in its nuclear program beyond the deal’s limits.
“The United States engaging in active negotiations with Iran and potentially providing billions of dollars in sanctions relief will no doubt contribute to Iran’s support of Hamas and other terrorist organizations who attack Americans and our allies," wrote the Republican Senators.
Washington said it was dispatching an envoy, Hadi Amr, to the region Wednesday to try and calm the conflict between Israel and Palestinians, the worst since 2014 as they continued airstrikes and rocket attacks.
According to the US State Department, American military aid to Israel is currently around $3.3 billion annually, with an additional $500 million for missile defense. Israel has expressed growing concern over improved capabilities of Hamas’ military wing, Izz al-din al-Qassam brigade, which has improved training and developed weapons factories utilizing scrap metal to make rockets. Iran has reportedly supplied Fajr and Chinese R160 missiles, and according to the Times of Israel Tehran is increasing aid to Hamas to $30 million a month.
Hamas this week welcomed signs of rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran as a step towards clear regional support for the Palestinian cause. Iran’s material support for Hamas was cut when the Palestinian group aligned with Sunni Muslim rebels against President Bashar al-Assad, leading to Hamas leaning more to Turkey and Qatar, where Hamas’ exiled leader Ismail Haniyeh is based.
Ties between Iran and Hamas improved in 2020, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei pledged strong support and spoke openly of providing weapons to Palestinian groups. Speaking in Tehran after Eid al-Fitr prayers to Tehran Press, a hardline news website, Hamas representative Khaled al-Ghaddumi praised Iran’s strong ties with Palestine and called it a "real partner."
Later, in a speech at the rally at Tehran's Palestine Square, Ghaddumi said Iran and the Palestinian would destroy the Israeli state: "The billboard here at Palestine Square says there's 7,000 days until Israel's annihilation. As Iran's esteemed Supreme Leader has stressed, Israel must be annihilated… We will tread the path to the annihilation of the Zionist regime together.”
The violence erupted after clashes in east Jerusalem, especially around al-Aqsa mosque, where Israeli authorities are preparing to clear Palestinian families to make way for Jewish settlers. Israel has launched hundreds of air strikes while Palestinians have fired rockets that in places broke through Israel’s ‘Iron Dome’ defense system. The death toll since May 6 is put at 65 Palestinians and six Israelis, including an Israeli soldier killed by a Hamas anti-tank missile.