Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Adewale O. Adeyemo testifies during a Senate hearing on US sanctions, on Tuesday, April 9, 2024.

US Senators Slam Biden's Iran Policy In Sanctions Hearing

Wednesday, 04/10/2024

US Senators heaped harsh criticism on President Joe Biden in a hearing Tuesday, accusing the administration of putting Americans “in harm's way” with releasing sanctioned funds to Iran.

"Every dollar this administration gives to Iran is another dollar that will be used against our sons and daughters,” said Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) at a Banking Committee hearing. “The treasury has the ability to stop the dollars… that bolsters the Iranian regime. However, this White House has reduced those barriers through so-called electricity waivers…, licenses, and further billion-dollar payouts.”

Biden’s Iran policy has been a constant source of controversy, especially after October 7th when Hamas, funded and equipped by the Iranian regime, rampaged Israeli areas bordering Gaza, killing hundreds of civilians.

The Senate hearing Tuesday, titled Countering Illicit Finance, Terrorism and Sanctions Evasion, aimed to explore the ways in which the administration’s decisions may have benefited Iran financially and the ways in which such benefits could be stopped.

Testifying in the hearing, Deputy Secretary of the US Treasury Adewale O. Adeyemo admitted that “any dollar” made available to Iran “will go towards their violent activity before they deal with their people.”

“What we’ve seen time and again from the Iranian regime, is that… they put the IRGC first,” he added. “That’s partially why almost none of the humanitarian money has been used for humanitarian purposes, because they don’t care about getting food and drugs for their people.”

The Biden administration has always maintained that funds made available to Iran through ‘third party’ banks (in Qatar, for instance) can only be used for humanitarian purposes. But Biden critics say money is fungible and even if funds are used only for permissible goods, it would free an equal amount somewhere else that can be used for malign activities.

“The Biden administration has acted as Iran’s best friend,” Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) told the hearing. “Iran is not our friend. Biden keeps giving Iran money to buy weapons and try to kill us…Every dollar the US President gives Iran access to will support terrorism aimed at Americans and our allies.”

Other major themes in the hearing were waiving sanctions and Iran’s oil revenue, which has risen dramatically since Biden took office and ended the 'maximum pressure' campaign of former President Donald Trump.

“In spite of US sanctions, Iran's crude oil exports grew by roughly 50% in 2023 to a 5-year high of 1.3 million barrels per day, a vast majority of which goes to China,” Democratic Senator Bob Menendez told the hearing. "The US is reticent to sanction China and its actors."

The Biden administration has turned a blind eye on Iran’s oil exports, partly because it’s challenging to enforce strict and effective sanctions on China, and partly because it seeks to keep the Islamic government in Tehran content enough not to veer towards a more aggressive path with regards to its nuclear program.

Moreover, President Biden may be worried about a supply shortage and a sudden rise in oil prices in an election year. Iran has on many occasions warned that it would ‘close’ the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow but critical waterway through which around 20 percent of all global oil and petrochemicals ships.

This would be a high-risk proposition for Tehran as it would likely draw a harsh response from the United States –something the rulers of Iran want to avoid, their rhetoric notwithstanding. But if they were to act on their threat, however misjudged and short-lived their action might be, the global economy –and Joe Biden– would no doubt suffer.

"Iran can guarantee an election loss for President Biden,” energy expert and former White House special assistant said in an interview with CNBC Tuesday. “Iran can send pump prices to $6 or higher. They can do that. And Biden knows that they can do that."

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