House Republicans are probing the Biden administration for its failure to enforce sanctions on Syria as part of a bid to appease Iran, embattled Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s biggest backer.
Iran has repeatedly violated congressionally approved U.S. sanctions on Syria by sending shiploads of crude oil to Assad. This also violates sanctions on Iran aimed at stymieing its oil trade and cutting off a source of revenue for the hardline regime. The Biden administration has declined to enforce sanctions and, six months into the administration, has not issued a single penalty on Syria under the bipartisan Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, which authorized the executive branch to target Assad.
Republican foreign policy leaders are investigating the matter, according to a copy of their demands sent Tuesday to the White House and obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. Reps. Bryan Steil (R., Wis.), Jim Banks (R., Ind.), and Joe Wilson (R., S.C.) maintain the Biden administration’s refusal to enforce sanctions is the result of its ongoing diplomacy with Iran that is aimed at cementing a revamped nuclear deal. The investigation is one of several active probes being led by the Republican Study Committee, the House’s largest conservative caucus, which opposes the Biden administration’s efforts to provide Iran with massive sanctions relief.
"We are concerned that your administration is failing to enforce U.S. sanctions law on one of the worst human rights violators in the world, which has killed half a million people, as a concession to Iran to re-enter the failed Iran nuclear deal," the lawmakers write. "We are deeply concerned that after over 100 days of being in office, the administration has refused to impose any sanctions."
The congressmen say they are "committed to investigating and uncovering any sanctions relief provided to Iran and its allies as part of your efforts to re-enter the [Iran nuclear deal]."
The lawmakers question why the administration has not exercised its sanctions authority under the Caesar Act. "Is the administration refusing to enforce sanctions one the worlds [sic] worst human rights violators, Assad, as a concession to the Iranians as part of rejoining the JCPOA?" they ask, referring to the nuclear deal by its official acronym.
They also demand to know whether the administration has held talks about lifting sanctions on the Assad regime. This includes potentially issuing waivers to exempt the Syrian regime from crippling sanctions. Waivers also are being used to unwind pressure on Iran.
"After more than 100 days in office, the Biden administration has refused to impose any sanctions under the Caesar Act. Sanctions enforcement against these threats must be a top priority," Steil told the Free Beacon.
"The Iran Deal sold out the Syrian people the first time around, and I fear that history is repeating itself," added Wilson.
Banks described the administration’s refusal to level sanctions as part of an effort "to suck up to the Ayatollah."
The investigation comes on the same day Syria held elections that the international community, including the United States, have condemned as rigged. The foreign ministers of France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States said in a joint statement on Tuesday that "Syria’s May 26 presidential election will neither be free nor fair."