Ten Republican Senators have written to President Joe Biden telling him he is endangering US national security by not enforcing Iranian oil export sanctions.
The Senators, including Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and Ted Cruz in their letter dated January 28 told Biden that a growing fleet of non-Iranian oil tankers and buyers such as China are not afraid of US retaliation any longer and are trading in hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil a day.
“The vessel owners and their customers in China are taking greater risks because they believe that your administration is too weak and indecisive to punish them for their crimes,” the letter says and accuses Biden of unwillingness to enforce sanctions to keep nuclear talks alive in Vienna.
For the first time in a year, China officially reported in January that it is importing Iranian oil, with US making no public demarche.
The United States imposed partial sanctions on Iran’s oil exports in 2018 when former president Donald Trump withdrew from the Obama-era nuclear agreement known as JCPOA. Full sanctions followed in May 2019, bringing Iranian shipments down to around 200,000 bpd from a high of more than 2 million barrels before the sanctions.
The Republican Senators charged that currently Iran is shipping well over one million barrels per day because, “the boom in oil sales has refilled the Iranian regime’s once-empty coffers, removed crucial American leverage over Iran, and encouraged the Iranians to stall negotiations in Vienna and irreversibly advance their pursuit of a nuclear weapon. It is long past time to stop your dithering. You are putting U.S. national security at risk.”
Arguing that the proceeds from additional oil sales will go to finance the Revolutionary Guard, which is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the Senators said, “enforcing oil sanctions against Iran is also enforcing terrorism sanctions against Iran. Bipartisan laws enacted by Congress in 2011 and 2012 targeting Iran’s oil exports and energy sector require the President to enforce these sanctions.”
The Biden Administration has not officially acknowledged that Iran is exporting more oil or that it is not enforcing the sanctions vigorously. If the negotiations in Vienna succeed in restoring the JCPOA, it is expected that oil sanctions will be lifted. Republicans say the talks, which started almost ten months ago are doomed to end either in an impasse or substantial US concessions.
The Biden Administration says its priority and focus is on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal to stop Iran from building nuclear weapons and argues that Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement and its ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions have not stopped the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program or regional aggression.
Earlier in January more than 100 Republican members of Congress wrote to Biden asking him to stop the negotiations and get tough with Iran, which is fast enriching uranium to higher levels.
Iran’s enrichment picket up in early 2021, after Biden said he wants to restore the JCPOA and moved toward opening talks with Iran.
The ten Republican Senators urged Biden to enforce US sanctions, saying, “Each day you delay gives Iran more money to finance their terrorist activity and more time to develop a nuclear weapon. We would also remind you that sanctions against Iran’s oil exports are mandatory and passed Congress with bipartisan majorities. You are not above the law and must stop violating it.”