So far, most of the headlines being generated by President Biden have had to do with his domestic policy, COVID relief, the crisis at the southern border, and now his infrastructure and job proposal. But the Oklahoma congressional delegation is also paying attention to his foreign policy moves, and they have concerns.
The international issue that seems to have the highest profile -- and is generating the most concern right now -- is Iran and the administration's goal of reviving, in some fashion, the controversial Iran nuclear deal.
"Look, there's no denying that we are approaching this with urgency," said State Department Spokesperson Ned Price at a press briefing earlier this week.
The State Department says the administration is moving quickly because Iran continues to move further out of compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), from which President Trump withdrew in 2018.
In a possible first step toward bringing Iran back into compliance, and potentially lifting U.S. and international sanctions on Iran, the U.S. and Iran held indirect talks yesterday in Vienna.
"Our goal of these talks in Vienna, again, is to set the stage for that mutual return to compliance," said Price. "The original formulation is one that still holds today. It's the limited lifting of sanctions -- nuclear sanctions -- in return for permanent and verifiable limits on Iran's nuclear program."
Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe has been a fierce critic of Iran and of the Iran Nuclear Deal. In a letter he and three other Senators sent yesterday to President Biden, he said, “[W]e oppose any attempt to return to the failed JCPOA, or any deal that offers one-sided concessions to the Iranian regime while it continues to undermine the security of the United States and our allies.”
Biden administration officials insist any concessions will be mutual, and they doubt they will come quickly. if they come at all.
"We don't anticipate an early or immediate breakthrough," Price noted, "as these discussions we fully expect will be difficult."
On another front, the administration is aiming to improve relations with Palestinians, which many feel suffered under President Trump. The president wants the PLO and the Palestinian Authority to reopen their diplomatic mission in Washington but doing so would expose them to hundreds of millions of dollars in civil liability under a law co-authored by Senators James Lankford, (R-OK) and Charles Grassley, (R-IA).
Recent federal court decisions had begun to undermine the Anti-Terrorism Act, which Congress passed in 1992 to ensure supporters of terrorism targeting Americans abroad are held accountable in U.S. courts. Sen. Lankford's "The Promoting Security and Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act" closed loopholes that allowed those court decisions, ensuring American victims of terrorism can have their day in a court.
Lankford says he recently saw a report where an administration official was quoted as saying they were trying to 'fix' the law so that the Palestinians could reopen their offices without being subject to local lawsuits.
In a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Lankford and Grassley said, “The Administration must make clear to the PLO and the PA that the only path to re-establishing a presence on American soil is to consent to U.S. jurisdiction and negotiate in good faith with terror victims to resolve their claims.”
The two Senators added that, as authors of the PSJVTA, they will "vigorously oppose" any efforts to circumvent that requirement.