Congress Seeks to Make Iran Pay For Downed American Drone

New sanctions hit top Iranian officials, including Foreign Minister Zarif

Sen. Ted Cruz / Getty Images
June 24, 2019

Congress is considering a new measure that would extract millions from frozen Iranian bank accounts in order to subsidize the cost of its recent downing of an American drone in the region, according to congressional sources and a copy of draft legislation viewed by the Free Beacon.

The measure, filed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) late Monday, would require the Trump administration to assess the exact cost of the drone, which could be anywhere from $120 million to $220 million, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The move comes as congressional hawks and Iran critics seek more ways to penalize Iran for its increasingly flagrant military attacks against the United States and its assets in the Persian Gulf region. While President Donald Trump called off a strike on Iran minutes before it was to take place last week, his administration and allies in Congress continue to seek a financial price from Iran, via economic sanctions and other measures meant to squeeze the regime.

The Trump administration moved on Monday to sanction Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei and his associates in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Iran's paramilitary fighting force that has conducted multiple terror attacks across the region. Khamenei and his hardline allies are believed to have billions stockpiled and the new sanctions will directly target these cash assets, according to Treasury Department officials.

The administration is seeking to target Iran's top officials, including its foreign minister, Javad Zarif, who negotiated the landmark nuclear deal with the former Obama administration.

In Congress, Cruz's new measure would mandate the administration report on the cost of the downed U.S. drone, how much Iranian money is frozen in bank accounts across the globe, and how the Trump administration can use its leverage to recoup the cost from these Iranian accounts.

"This amendment is exactly what it looks like," one GOP Senate aide who is familiar with the amendment told the Free Beacon. "They want to know how much the drone cost, how much frozen Iranian money is available, and what the government has to do to get the frozen Iranian money into Department of Defense coffers to pay for the drone. Twenty-eight lines. Totally straightforward."

If there are roadblocks to seizing this money, Cruz is seeking to learn what they are and how they can be surmounted. It also would allow Congress to step in if there are no current avenues by which to seize the Iranian cash.

To this end, the measure "requires a report on the cost of the United States drone [downed] by Iran … and the barriers to confiscating an amount equal to the cost from frozen Iranian funds," according to a copy of the amendment.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration continues to choke off Iran's access to the billions in cash windfalls it was provided under the former Obama administration's nuclear deal.

A designation on Iranian foreign minister Zarif will be coming later in the week.

"The president has also designated—instructed me that we will be designating Zarif later this week," Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin said in remarks to reporters on Monday when he announced the package of new sanctions.

Published under: Iran , Sanctions , Ted Cruz