Rounds and colleagues urge Biden to stand with Israel, reject Iran sanction relief

U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds

WASHINGTON — South Dakota Senator Mike Rounds joined Florida Senator Marco Rubio and 42 other Republican colleagues in a letter to the Biden administration on Thursday urging the president to stand with Israel and reject sanction relief to Iran.

The senators called on Biden to end negotiations with Iran, the “world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism,” and make it clear that further sanction relief would not be available.

“Over the past couple days, Palestinian terrorists in Gaza, who are funded by Iran, have launched a series of rocket attacks into Israel,” wrote the senators. “They are targeting Israeli civilians and cities, including Israel’s capital Jerusalem. This is troubling as members of your administration are currently in Vienna negotiating with Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.”

The Biden administration has said repeatedly that reining in Iran’s nuclear program is the top priority with Tehran, and that rejoining the J.C.P.O.A. – or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which went into effect in January 2016 – is the most effective way to do so. Then-President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the J.C.P.O.A. in 2018.

In retaliation for the departure and for the assassination of Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani during a drone strike at Baghdad International Airport in January 2020, Iran has resumed some of its nuclear activities.

Hamas and Israel have traded fire since Monday after weeks of Israeli-Palestinian tensions in Jerusalem. As Hamas fired rockets from Gaza into Israel, Israel began firing back and called up 9,000 reservists. An Israeli Defense Forces spokesperson said a ground invasion into Gaza was on the table.

Three major airlines in the U.S. – American Airlines, United Airlines, and Delta Airlines – have suspended flights to Israel amid the fighting and are unsure of when service will be resumed. Other airlines, such as British Airways, Lufthansa, Iberia, and Virgin Atlantic, have followed suit.

Rockets fired from Gaza have targeted Ben Gurion International Airport, the main airport in Tel Aviv. Israeli officials began rerouting flights to airports in southern Israel on Thursday.

Another potential escalation comes as rockets were fired from southern Lebanon into Israel on Thursday. No damage from the rockets was reported; the Israeli Defense Forces tweeted that the rockets landed in the Mediterranean Sea off the northern Israeli coast.

Click HERE to read the full text of the letter.

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