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Iran’s Illicit Oil Exports Hit Five-Year High

Iranian oil tanker in Carabobo, Venezuela / Getty Images
Iranian oil tanker in Carabobo, Venezuela / Getty Images

Iran’s illicit oil exports have hit a five-year high under the Biden administration, which has refrained from seizing Tehran’s outlaw tankers even though authorities have had at least half-a-dozen credible leads, according to intelligence information collected by Congress and provided to the Washington Free Beacon.

Iranian oil exports—a principal source of income for Tehran’s cash-strapped regime—increased by 35 percent from 2021 to 2022, indicating that the Biden administration is not enforcing sanctions meant to prevent these sales. Record oil revenues have enabled Iran to boost pay for its regional terror proxies and cause havoc in the Strait of Hormuz, a critical shipping lane where Tehran routinely harasses U.S. military vessels and seizes commercial shipping boats.

Iran has tried to abduct five ships since April, and has "harassed, attacked, or seized nearly 20 internationally flagged merchant vessels" since 2021, according to data from Sen. Joni Ernst’s (R., Iowa) office. The situation has become so dire that the Biden administration moved additional war planes into the region earlier this month to help deter attacks.

Amid this uptick in Iranian aggression, the Biden administration has failed to enforce sanctions on Tehran’s oil trade, which benefits China, Syria, and Venezuela. Iranian oil sales stood at $44 billion as of August 2022—a 77 percent increase from 2020—with analysts attributing the rise to President Joe Biden’s "terminally lax sanctions enforcement." Although the Biden administration has been armed with the intelligence information to seize at least six illicit Iranian oil ships in recent months, it has only detained one ship in the past year, likely to appease Tehran amid diplomatic talks to restart the 2015 nuclear deal.

Related Story: Despite Sanctions, Iran’s Oil Exports Hit New Highs in 2022 and 2023

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