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Republicans and foreign policy experts on Wednesday denounced the Biden administration’s “reckless and dangerous” move to renew a sanctions waiver for Iran that would grant the US adversary access to $10 billion held in escrow accounts.
The 120-day waiver, authorized by Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday, allows the Iranian regime access to the funds from Iraq in exchange for electricity purchases.
The renewal comes amid increased attacks against US forces by Iranian proxies and just over a month after Iran-backed terror group Hamas slaughtered 1,200 people in Israel on Oct. 7, sparking significant criticism.
“On the same day as the biggest pro-Israel rally in American history, Joe Biden’s administration gifted another sanctions waiver for Iran to access $10 billion – the same regime underwriting the horrific Hamas attack on Israel on October 7th that Israel is courageously fighting, with American and Israeli hostages still being held,” Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said in an X post.
“Add this on top of the $6 billion ransom payment the Biden administration gave Iran on 9/11 and the lax oil sanctions keeping the mullahs flush with cash from China. All the while, Iran continues to provide safe harbor to the leader of Al Qaeda, its proxies attack U.S. forces, and they hire hitmen to attempt to abduct or assassinate former U.S. officials and dissidents,” the 2024 GOP presidential candidate added.
“Reckless and dangerous doesn’t even begin to describe the wreckage Biden is leaving behind,” said DeSantis.
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley also slammed the sanctions waiver, arguing that it makes the US “look like fools.”
“Iran’s proxies are targeting American troops abroad and just killed dozens of our citizens in Israel. Joe Biden needs to wake up — we look like fools paying terrorists who attack us and chant ‘death to America,’” she tweeted.
“Iran financially supports Hamas’ terrorism. Why would Biden want to send another $10 Billion to Tehran?” Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) wondered.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, blasted the waiver extension as “appeasement.”
“After refusing to permanently freeze the $6 billion ransom payment to Iran, the administration released another $10 billion. This appeasement only emboldens the Iranian regime and its proxies to continue their attacks on American troops and our allies,” Cotton wrote on X.
US officials argue that the waiver extension was necessary to prevent Iraq from being cut off from a critical source of energy. The State Department also notes that under the conditions of the waiver, Iran may only use the funds to purchase non-sanctioned products, such as humanitarian goods like food and medicine.
Foreign policy and national security experts, however, are skeptical that Iran won’t use the windfall to continue its violent campaign against the US and Israel.
Mark Dubowitz, the CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank, argued that President Biden “deserves great credit” for his support of Israel but “strong condemnation” for greenlighting the sanctions waiver, noting that the Iranian regime is the “main financier of and weapons supplier for the horrific October 7 attacks on Israel.”
“It is beyond belief that he would make available $10 billion for a regime that will turn around and use this money to wage war against America and Israel,” Dubowitz said in an analysis of the waiver.
FDD Senior Advisor Richard Goldberg added that “the idea of making $10 billion available to the sponsor of all this evil makes little sense,” citing the 55 attacks on US troops in Iraq and Syria by Iranian proxies since Oct. 17.
“Congress rightfully pushed to lock down the $6 billion in Qatar; it should move quickly to lock down this $10 billion too,”Goldberg argued.
Shortly after the US unfroze the $6 billion for Iran in September, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi declared that Tehran would use the money “wherever we need it,” leading to concerns that the regime would spend the funds for nefarious purposes.
State Department spokesman Matthew Miller defended the waiver Tuesday, claiming that Iran would continue “destabilizing activities” regardless of whether the waiver was issued.
“These are waivers that have been issued going back to 2018. We have seen Iran continue its destabilizing activities throughout that time, just as they did before the Trump administration issued the first of these waivers in 2018, which is why we have held them accountable through strikes against their proxy militias in the region,” Miller said.