Following reports Tuesday that the United States State Department approved a sanctions waiver to allow the Islamic Republic of Iran to access upward of $10 billion in frozen assets, various experts and lawmakers took to social media and other outlets to air their concerns against the administration’s actions.
“It’s extremely concerning that the Biden administration hasn’t ruled out renewing this waiver, given that it expires today,” said Nate Sibley a research fellow at The Hudson Institute’s Kleptocracy Initiative.
“Even if this money is ringfenced for humanitarian payments, Tehran will simply view it as replacing funds it has spent, or plans to spend, on financing terrorism instead of the needs of its own beleaguered population. We’ve already been through this debate over the $6 billion oil payment from South Korea that the Biden administration was forced to try and ‘refreeze’ after the October 7th attack,” Sibley told The Foreign Desk.
The sanctions waiver, which was set to expire today after being authorized in the summer, allows Iraq to pay Iran for multibillion-dollar electricity purchases, making it the first time the Biden administration renewed the waiver since the Islamic Republic-backed terror group Hamas launched its attack against Israel in October.
The administration stated that allowing these funds to be accessed by Tehran mitigates its leverage on the Iraqi government, which has grown close to the Islamic Republic in recent years.
“Meanwhile, Iraq doesn’t need a broader waiver to continue purchasing Iranian energy,” he added.
“The Biden administration’s Iran policy has been an absolute disaster, and they are so far out on a limb that they can’t climb down without causing severe damage to what’s left of their credibility,” said Matthew RJ Brodsky, senior fellow at the Gold Institute for International Strategy.
“From the start, Team Biden began loosening the enforcement of sanctions on Iran. In the first days of the administration, they de-listed the Houthis in Yemen from the terrorist list. The Houthis are joined in Iran’s effort to target Israel during this war,” Brodsky told The Foreign Desk.
“This is all obvious and plain to see. Iran was behind the October 7 attacks and is behind every move Hezbollah makes in Lebanon. Yet, the Biden administration is pretending that link doesn’t exist,” he added.
The waiver renewal “allows Iraq to use its own funds to render payment for Iranian electricity imports into restricted Iranian accounts in Iraq,” a State Department official told the Washington Free Beacon. “These restricted funds can only be used for humanitarian and other non-sanctionable transactions,” the official added.
A State Department spokesperson told the Washington Free Beacon that it was in America’s interest that the funds “leave Iraq and be spent down from Iran’s accounts held overseas.” “Money used for non-sanctionable, allowable transactions—like humanitarian trade—is not available to Iran for other purposes, and it deprives Iran of leverage against the Iraqi government.”
“The only reason I can think they may offer is that refusing to renew the waiver might antagonize Tehran and cause it to engage in further escalation. But the treacherous regime in Tehran has demonstrated time and again that it will only exploit a U.S. policy of appeasement to further its murderous ambitions,” Sibley said.
The news prompted reactions from U.S. lawmakers who were calling for tighter enforcement of sanctions on Tehran. Republican lawmakers in Congress argue that such funds help the Islamic Republic divert funds into U.S.-designated terror groups like Hamas and Hezbollah.
“If the Biden administration does provide this sanctions relief, it will send the worst possible message at the worst possible time,” Sibley explained to The Foreign Desk.
Tennesse Republican Senator Bill Hagerty renewed calls on Congress Tuesday to pass his proposed Iran Sanctions Relief Review Act, supported by 41 other senators. The bill mandates a congressional review of actions to terminate or waive sanctions imposed concerning Tehran. Indiana Republican Representative Jim Banks urged a similar motion at the House, with over 100 Republican lawmakers supporting the Maximum Pressure Act to codify the former-Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign against Iran into official U.S. Law.
“When we can see the number and quality of weapons captured by Israel daily in Gaza and can see the growing effectiveness of those used by Hezbollah in the north, it is inconceivable that the Biden administration would allow Iran to access an additional $10 billion. As American troops are constantly under Iranian fire in the Middle East, the message Team Biden should be sending is one of determination and deterrence. We are sending the opposite message. That cost will be paid with American and Israeli lives, and that is unacceptable,” Brodsky told The Foreign Desk.