Iran Cashed in During Biden's First Year in Office

Cash infusion helped Iran arm Taliban, foment terror on five continents, State Department report says

Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi (Getty Images)
March 15, 2023

President Joe Biden's lax sanctions enforcement during his first year in office allowed $23 billion to flow into Iran's coffers, even as the country armed the Taliban, attacked U.S. forces in the Middle East, and financed terror plots across five continents, according to a State Department report.

Iran’s illicit oil trade with China jumped from just $6.6 billion in 2020 to more than $23 billion in 2021, according to data from United Against a Nuclear Iran, when Biden took office and stopped enforcing sanctions on Iran’s oil trade with China. The decision to halt sanctions came as part of the administration's bid to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, which has not been successful.

The State Department’s 2021 global terrorism report, the latest version publicly available, provides a clear account of Iran’s growing terrorism activities during the Biden administration’s first year in office. With more cash resources on hand, Iran supported terror plots across Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, and South America, according to the report. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) also provided support to eight U.S.-designated terror groups in 2021. Iran also provided "weapons and support" to the Taliban in 2021, the same year the Biden administration oversaw a bungled evacuation from the country that resulted in the terror group’s return to power.

Former U.S. officials and regional experts say the findings show the Biden administration’s early diplomacy with Iran helped fuel its support for terrorism.

"The State Department's latest admissions about Iran's terror activity make clear that Biden's negotiations with Tehran empowered the regime to supercharge their terror plots—with zero pushback or accountability," Gabriel Noronha, a senior Iran adviser at the State Department during the Trump administration, told the Free Beacon. "Worse, they looked the other way at Iranian attacks and sanctions evasion, allowing the regime to raise tens of billions of dollars to destabilize Iraq and conduct dozens of attacks against our servicemembers and citizens there."

The report also said that Iranian-backed militia groups in Iraq and other terror forces launched "more than 100 IED attacks" on the U.S. coalition to defeat the ISIS terror group. These fighters also "launched at least 40 indirect fire attacks against U.S. interests in Iraq," according to the State Department.

This includes an attack in February 2021 that killed a U.S. contractor working in Iraq. Two days after that incident, the Biden administration moved forward with a plan to rescind all United Nations sanctions on Iran and remove travel restrictions on Iranian diplomats stationed in New York City.

The State Department report also indicated that "Iran-supported groups continue to engage in dangerous and destabilizing activity across the Middle East, with Iran using the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) and its proxies and partners to advance its interests abroad."

The IRGC had "active involvement" in Iraq and Syria, where the Iranian regime is bolstering dictator Bashar al-Assad. Iran also "continued its support to several U.S.-designated terrorist groups, providing funding, training, weapons, and equipment to various groups within the region," according to the report.

Iranian arms and money flowed to virtually every major anti-Israel terror group, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Tehran also provided support to several terror factions in Bahrain, which struck a peace deal with Israel in 2020.

Behnam Ben Taleblu, an Iran analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank, said the State Department’s findings show that "holding the door open for the [nuclear deal] as actively as the Biden administration did throughout 2021 and easing off the sanctions pressure it inherited from the Trump administration makes zero strategic sense."

Tehran spent most of 2021 bolstering its support for a terror network known as the "Axis of Resistance," according to Taleblu. "This trend is a sign of increasing confidence by Tehran that its export of terror will not be countered."

The State Department also determined that following the Taliban’s takeover, the "potential for WMD trafficking and proliferation in Afghanistan remained a concern." This finding highlights how the Biden administration’s bungled evacuation has allowed Afghanistan to become a safe haven for terror groups, including ISIS, which launched 334 attacks in Afghanistan in 2021, compared with just 60 in 2020, prior to the withdrawal.

Published under: Iran , Terrorism