US President Joe Biden preparing to deliver remarks during a visit to Goffstown, New Hampshire, March 11, 2024

Biden Faces Critical Decision On $10 Billion Iran Sanctions Waiver

Monday, 03/11/2024

This week, US President Joe Biden is confronted with a critical decision regarding a $10 billion sanctions waiver for Iran – and whether to renew it, or not.

With the ongoing war in Gaza and continued attacks by the Iran-backed Houthis in the Red Sea, the deadline could not come at a worse moment for the administration.

Last year, the US extended the sanctions waiver by four months, allowing Iraq to continue purchasing electricity from Iran.

Additionally, the waiver granted Iran limited access to approximately $10 billion in Iraqi payments held in escrow accounts, ostensibly for purchasing "humanitarian goods" without facing US sanctions.

However, both Republicans and Democrats swiftly challenged this decision, contending that the fungibility of money would effectively empower the Tehran regime to divert these funds towards arming its proxies, despite the humanitarian guise.

As of today, details of Iran's utilization of the sanctions-waived funds remain largely unclear.

During a December 2023 hearing of the House Financial Services Committee, Elizabeth Rosenberg, the assistant secretary of the US Treasury Department, acknowledged the existence of "two transactions” by Iran.

She added that she would only provide additional detail about those transactions in a classified setting.

If the administration’s plan was to keep the region – and Iran – quiet until after the 2024 US election – the recent developments have proven that plan to have backfired.

Packages fall towards northern Gaza, after being dropped from a military aircraft, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, as seen from Israel's border with Gaza, in southern Israel, March 11, 2024.

Middle East Unrest Intensifies After Waiver Decision

Since the US extended the sanctions waiver four months ago, the situation in the Middle East has deteriorated further, amplifying an already tense crisis.

In January, an Iran-backed militia's drone attack in Jordan claimed the lives of three US service members, marking the first American military fatalities from hostile fire amid escalating tensions from Israel's conflict with Hamas.

Increased attacks on vessels in the Red Sea by Iran-backed Houthi rebels have intensified criticism of the administration's handling of Iran. Last week, CENTCOM Commander Gen. Erik Kurilla told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Iran remains undeterred in its support for Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthis – and is not paying a price for its nefarious activities in the region.

“In light of these things, it is shocking that the US would then permit tyrants and extremists in Tehran access to billions of dollars which will undoubtedly be used to wreak havoc on America and its allies - including Israel,” Dr. Casey Babb, International Fellow with the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, told Iran International.

The international security and affairs expert maintains that Iran is to blame for much of the region’s turmoil – and the Biden administration, along with most Western governments “don't seem to have any idea what they're doing…the lack of foresight and strategic decision-making in the region is astounding, and the potential unfreezing of additional money for Iran speaks to this”.

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