Republican Iran hawks are jumping on the ongoing violence in Gaza and using it to argue for President Biden to end the ongoing negotiations with Iran in Vienna to revive the nuclear deal.
On Thursday, 44 Republican senators sent a letter to President Biden calling on him to end the talks and not give Iran sanctions relief, an effort led by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL).
“We call on you to immediately end negotiations with Iran, and make clear that sanctions relief will not be provided,” the letter reads. “Doing so would demonstrate a firm commitment to our closest ally in the region and to our own security interests.”
Israeli airstrikes pounded Gaza for the fourth day on Thursday. Over 100 Palestinians have been killed in the strikes, including dozens of children. In Israel, seven people have been killed as a result of rocket fire coming out of Gaza.
The senators blame Hamas for the latest escalation, and by extension, Iran, who they claim funds the group. But the violence was sparked by planned evictions of Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem. After days of violence against Palestinian demonstrators, and after Israeli police stormed al-Aqsa mosque, firing rubber bullets and tear gas, Hamas fired rockets into Israel.
The first barrage of rockets did little damage, and only one Israeli was “lightly injured.” Israel responded with a series of airstrikes on Gaza that killed 20 Palestinians, including 10 children. This led to more rockets out of Gaza. On Wednesday night, Israel rejected a truce offer from Hamas and chose to keep bombing the besieged enclave.
When asked about the Republican calls to end the negotiations, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Vienna talks would continue. “I don’t have anything to offer on whether there is Iranian involvement or not in what’s taking place [in Gaza],” he said. Blinken said if Iran was involved, it “only underscores the importance of doing everything we can to make sure that Iran never requires a nuclear weapon.”