GOP Wants Sanctions on Iran-Backed Terror Group Targeted in Biden Airstrike

Rep. Steube: Biden attacking militants while unwinding sanctions during nuclear negotiations

Hezbollah militants / Getty Images
June 30, 2021

GOP members of Congress are pressuring the Biden administration to approve sanctions on an Iran-backed terror group, just days after the United States launched a series of airstrikes on Tehran-controlled militants operating in Iraq and Syria.

President Joe Biden directed his first set of airstrikes in the Middle East this week, ordering defensive attacks on militant groups along the porous Iraq-Syria border, where Iranian terror proxies have conducted attacks on American forces in the region.

While the airstrikes received broad support in Congress, Republicans in Congress are frustrated over the Biden administration's refusal to issue sanctions on the terror group it struck this week. As negotiations with Iran over the 2015 nuclear accord continue in Vienna, the Biden administration has been reluctant to issue new sanctions on Iran. The administration has already walked back some of the toughest economic measures on Iran, generating anger among Republican hawks who supported the Trump administration's "maximum pressure" campaign on Tehran.

Rep. Greg Steube (R., Fla.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is pushing legislation that would sanction Kata'ib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS), a leading Iranian-backed terror group that was among the militants hit by the most recent U.S. airstrikes. Steube's legislation is one of several Republican-led measures that would increase sanctions on Iranian terrorist proxies and their chief funder.

Steube told the Washington Free Beacon the Biden administration is playing both sides, attacking Iranian militants on one hand while actively working to unwind sanctions on the Islamic Republic's proxy groups.

"While President Biden acts like he is tough on terrorism, his half-hearted steps to hold Iran and their militias accountable does not nearly go far enough," Steube said. "Biden is attacking groups, like KSS, that he will not sanction or even designate as terrorist organizations—in fact, he has even walked back sanctions to appease Iran throughout the nuclear agreement negotiations."

Steube said there is a schizophrenia in the administration's policy and that the United States needs "consistent, strong policies to protect our national security, U.S. service members, and international allies."

In explaining the most recent strikes, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said that Iranian-backed militants were the chief target.

"The targets were selected because these facilities are utilized by Iran-backed militias that are engaged in unmanned aerial vehicle attacks against U.S. personnel and facilities in Iraq," Kirby said in a press release. "Specifically, the U.S. strikes targeted operational and weapons storage facilities at two locations in Syria and one location in Iraq, both of which lie close to the border between those countries."

Steube's bill, which he is pushing along with House Armed Services Committee member Jim Banks (R., Ind.), is awaiting consideration by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Steube said he is pressuring fellow committee members to advance the legislation in light of the most recent U.S. strikes on Iranian militants such as KSS.

The bill, dubbed the Sanctioning Iranian Backed Militia Terrorists Act, would sanction KSS, its leaders, and its funding channels. The bill cites KSS for acting as a militant cog in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps's network of terror groups.

The corps provides training, funding, and weapons to KSS, which also works closely with an affiliate group in Lebanon and with Hezbollah, which also operates in that country. KSS is the only terror group in this network that has not yet been sanctioned by the United States.