Biden Admin Ignores Congressional Inquiries Into Iran Sanctions Relief

Tehran could get as much as $90 billion if US revives nuclear deal

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November 29, 2021

The Biden administration has ignored more than two dozen congressional inquiries into plans to grant Iran significant relief from economic sanctions, which could provide the hardline regime with upwards of $90 billion in hard cash, according to a coalition of Republican foreign policy leaders.

Frustrated with the Biden administration's refusal to provide Congress with information about its closed-door dealings with Iran, 25 Republican lawmakers on Monday wrote to the White House to inform the president that Republicans are poised to block any efforts to help Iran repatriate billions of dollars in funds that were frozen under the Trump administration's "maximum pressure" campaign on Tehran. The letter comes on the same day the United States and Iran are scheduled to resume talks about reviving the 2015 nuclear deal.

"Despite over a dozen letters by members of the Republican Study Committee (RSC) asking for information on Iran sanctions enforcement, your administration has continued to leave Congress in the dark regarding its plans to weaken sanctions enforcement and provide sanctions relief to Iran," the lawmakers write.

The letter, which was obtained exclusively by the Washington Free Beacon, is the latest salvo in a standoff between the Biden administration and Republican hawks in Congress who oppose any effort to reenter the nuclear deal and unwind sanctions on Iran. While most of the Trump administration's sanctions remain in place, Republican lawmakers accuse Biden's State and Treasury Departments of turning a blind eye to enforcement. Since taking office and reentering negotiations with Iran, the Biden administration has rolled back sanctions on Iran's terror proxy groups and permitted the country to ship millions of barrels of illicit oil to China, Syria, and other countries. The lax enforcement of sanctions allowed Tehran's hardline regime to increase its cash reserves from around $4 billion in 2020 to $31 billion by the end of this year.

"Although many of President Trump's sanctions technically remain in place, your administration has willfully failed to enforce them on Iran and its proxies," the lawmakers write. "In particular, Iran continues to engage in illicit oil exports to China." The letter also notes that there have been no additional sanctions leveled on Iran or China as a result of this illicit trade, despite the administration's stated opposition to the sales.

With negotiations between the United States and Iran resuming after a months-long pause, the lawmakers reminded the Biden administration that sanctions are controlled by Congress—and that Republicans will do all they can to ensure that any relief granted to Iran is temporary.

"We are writing to remind you that the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and hence the ability to enact economic sanctions, resides in Congress," states the letter, which was organized by the Republican Study Committee and spearheaded by Rep. Pat Fallon (R., Texas). "When Republicans return to the majority soon, we look forward to reasserting Congress' authority over economic sanctions by passing the Maximum Pressure Act and circumscribing the ability of your administration, like the Obama administration before it, to lift sanctions and abuse waiver and license authorities to provide sanctions relief to Iran."

The lawmakers say they will also use "all legislative tools available" to ensure that Congress ultimately votes on any sanctions relief proposed by the Biden administration as part of its talks with Iran.

Rep. Jim Banks (Ind.), the Republican Study Committee's chairman and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, told the Free Beacon that the Biden administration is attempting to make an end run around Congress to achieve a nuclear deal, the same way the Obama administration skirted Congress to ink the original accord.

"Biden's maximum concessions has only made Iran more aggressive. Yet Biden's advisers are now implying that Iran needs to be more empowered to solve the region's problems," Banks said. "Above all, Biden continues to keep Congress out of the loop with regard to Iran. Once Republicans retake the majority, we will ensure any sanctions relief by the Biden administration to Iran will be temporary."

The letter also notes that since Biden took office and began negotiations with Iran, the Islamic regime's regional support for terrorism has increased. This support includes holding oil tankers hostage and arming militant groups in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, and elsewhere. Iran's nuclear program also has grown significantly, with Tehran enriching uranium—the most important component in an atomic weapon—to the highest levels in recent history.

"Despite lax sanctions enforcement and even the removal of sanctions from a number of Iranian entities and regional proxies, such as the Houthis in Yemen and the Assad regime in Syria, the Iranian regime has not moderated its behavior, and its proxies have grown more aggressive," the lawmakers write.

Fallon, also a member of the House Armed Services Committee, told the Free Beacon that the entire Republican caucus is determined to "hold this administration accountable" for its dealings with Iran.

"Not only do we need to enforce certain sanctions already on the books," he said, "it is imperative that the United States also use every legislation tool at our disposal to ensure the safety of our homeland."

Meanwhile, Israel's prime minister issued a rebuke of the Biden administration's efforts to appease Tehran.

"Do not give in to Iran's nuclear blackmail," Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Monday. "Iran deserves no rewards, no bargain deals, and no sanctions relief in return for their brutality. I call upon our allies around the world: Do not give in to Iran's nuclear blackmail."