A joint session of US Congress

US Lawmakers Push For Tougher Stance On Iran, Mull Direct Action

Friday, 11/17/2023

US lawmakers are introducing several measures to compel the Biden administration to adopt a more assertive stance towards Iran, including the possibility of a direct attack on Iranian soil.

Many in the Congress are dismayed by a new US sanction waiver that would see Iran gaining access to another $10 billion frozen in Iraq, while openly backing Hamas and celebrating its attack on Israel last month.

“We are in a day and age where we need to be aggressive with Iran,” Senator Joni Ernst told Iran International’s Arash Alaei. “If you look at what is going on in the Middle East right now, we see Iran sponsoring terrorism through Hezbollah, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.”

Senator Ernst is co-sponsoring a bill with Senator Richard Blumenthal that aims to enforce Iran’s oil sanctions –abandoned by the Biden administration in all but name.

The bipartisan bill includes a provision for a $150 million sanctions enforcement fund that would allow the Department of Homeland Security Investigations office to focus on enforcing Iranian oil sanctions.

“We need to start interdicting Iranian oil and use the funds for victims of state-sponsored terrorism”, Senator Ernst told Iran International.

Another initiative, introduced by Senators Lindsey Graham and Richard Blumenthal urges President Biden to attack Iran in case an American soldier was killed in Syria or Iraq.

“If an American is killed… then the target should be in Iran,” said Senator Graham at the press briefing introducing the initiative. “We’ve had four strikes, all inside Syria… Reagan hit Iran. Trump hit Iran… they need to pay a price they haven’t paid yet.”

And he explained the “price” in the clearest terms.

“That price should be the IRGC infrastructure… and the oil refineries should be knocked out if they continue their efforts to expand this war [between Israel and Hamas].”

Senators Graham and Blumenthal say that their draft is such that it would require no further Congressional authorization and President Joe Biden can take action at will.

“And the Iranians will get it,” Senator Blumenthal said at the same briefing. “And hopefully they’ll get it today, even before it’s passed, that we stand behind the President. We don’t want war. They shouldn’t want war.”

Iran and the US have been on a colliding course for a few weeks now, but so far have avoided direct conflict. The Islamic Republic utilizes its proxies in Iraq and Syria, as well as Houthis in Yemen and Hezbollah in Lebanon to attack US and Israeli targets. The United States, on the other hand, has retaliated by striking at IRGC affiliated facilities in Syria.

Senator Graham called for a direct and clear warning to be issued to Iran.

“So if you continue [the attacks], this is what’s coming your way,” he said, “we’re going to hit you hard in every sphere of influence, economic and military. We are on the edge right now. The Iranians can make some decision one way or the other. Choose wisely.”

Despite their persistence on shifting the Biden administration's approach towards Iran, the US lawmakers are not too optimistic about their chances.

Senator Ernst told Iran International that she felt Biden was not likely to enforce the bill even if it reached the final stage and was signed into law.

“I don't count much on the Biden administration,” she said, “I'm hopeful that in the next few years, we have a different leader that will be willing to enforce the sanctions.”

Many believe that the Biden administration has chosen to look the other way and allow Iran to export its oil in spite of the sanctions –hoping that in return, it would get the regime to agree to some kind of nuclear deal.

On Wednesday, a White House Energy Adviser Amos Hochstein said that the US will toughen up on Iran oil sanctions to curb the Islamic Republic’s revenues.

“We are going to enforce the sanctions,” he said, “those numbers will come down.”

Iran reportedly exported 1.4 million barrels of oil per day last month. This is almost twice as much as it averaged during Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign, according to United Against Nuclear Iran.

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