President Joe Biden delivering the State of the Union to the US Congress on March 8, 2024.

Biden's Sanctions Waiver Can Award Billions To Iran

Thursday, 03/14/2024

Republican lawmakers are outraged by President Joe Biden’s decision to renew a US sanctions waiver that benefits Iran, despite the regime’s continued attacks on US interests.

The waiver, signed and transmitted to the US Congress late Wednesday, allows Iraq to purchase electricity from Iran for billions of dollars and pay for it by transferring hard currencies to accounts in third countries such as Oman and Qatar.

While exempting Iraq from Iran sanctions for importing energy is not a new policy, the permission for Baghdad to pay in hard currency is part of the waiver. This was allowed for the first time by the Biden administration last year.

Iran International has information confirming that the waiver will allow Iraq once again to pay for its energy imports with hard currencies via accounts in third countries. The Biden administration claims that money going into these accounts can only be used to purchase non-sanctionable good, but so far there has been no accounting for the $10 billion that Iraq transferred to Oman last year.

Critics say the waiver should not have been renewed, not least because Iran continues to fund armed groups that are hellbent on harming Americans and forcing the United States to pull out from the region.

“Why is Biden granting sanctions relief to Iran while its proxies aim to kill US personnel,” asked Rep. Pat Fallon on his X account. “Does Biden want to fund terrorism or does it want to protect our troops abroad? Another chapter in the Biden foreign policy legacy of disgrace!”

Such strong feelings towards Joe Biden’s Iran policy are not new. The difference this time is that many in Washington see the regime in Tehran as not just an adversary but an enemy in a proxy war that has killed and wounded Americans.

“President Biden just renewed a sanctions waiver to allow Iran access to $10 billion,” Rep. Bryan Steil posted on X. “Meanwhile, Iran is enriching uranium closer to nuclear level and its proxies are shooting missiles at our service-members, killing 3.”

The Biden administration maintains that the waiver is not what many suggest –that it will not enrich the Iranian regime or its proxies, and it’s not a Biden initiative at any rate.

“The waiver has been regularly renewed since 2018, continuing a practice from the prior administration,” a State Department spokesperson said in response to questions submitted by Iran International. “Since 2018, the waiver has remained necessary as Iraq weans itself off Iranian energy imports, which cannot happen overnight.”

It’s unclear if (or to what extent) the new waiver differs from the original that was granted in 2018. Some experts have suggested that this one offers Iran way more freedom on how to use the money. 

The State Department has only gone as far as to say “under these waivers, no money has been permitted to enter Iran.” And that the funds “can only be used for transactions for the purchase of food, agricultural commodities, medicine, medical devices, and other non-sanctionable transactions.”

“The money never touches Iran,” the department’s spokesperson said Wednesday.

But his argument has never satisfied Biden’s critics –and it’s unlikely to do so this time. The critics say that money is fungible and does not need to ever “touch” Iran to benefit the regime. That it exists and is accessible, they say, means that it can free up funds of corresponding figures inside Iran, which can then be used for ‘malign activities.’

“The Biden Administration should be combatting Iran’s ability to finance terror at every level,” Rep. Bill Huizenga posted on X shortly after the sanction waiver was signed and transmitted to the US Congress. “ It is no secret Iranian funded proxies are attacking American troops and our allies. President Biden should apply maximum pressure and tighten restrictions on the Iranian regime.

President Biden has not lifted any sanctions since he took office, but he has relaxed the sanctions’ enforcement, allowing China to buy from Iran millions of barrels of oil and replenish its empty coffers with an estimated $80 billion.

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