An Iraqi official with alleged ties to the Iranian regime and its terrorist proxies traveled this week to the United States for high-level meetings amid a global energy crisis that has sent oil prices skyrocketing.
Ihsan Abdul-Jabbar Ismail, Iraq’s oil minister and acting finance minister, is listed as an official Iraqi government participant for World Bank meetings scheduled to be held in Washington, D.C., according to a list of participants published by the organization. He is also expected to hold meetings with Biden administration officials, according to sources familiar with the matter. A coalition of Republican lawmakers want to know why the Biden administration is "roll[ing] out the red carpet" for Ismail and how he was able to obtain a U.S. visa.
Three Republican foreign policy leaders in Congress are pressuring the Biden administration to reconsider engaging with Ismail, citing his alleged ties to Iran’s terrorist regime and the country’s efforts to evade U.S. economic sanctions.
Under Ismail’s leadership, Iraq’s State Oil Marketing Organization "has a track record of business dealings with Iran, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and Iranian-backed terrorist organizations Asa’ib ahl al-Haq and Katai’b Hezbollah," Reps. Jim Banks (R., Ind.), Mike Waltz (R., Fla.), and Joe Wilson (R., S.C.) wrote on Wednesday to the White House, according to a copy of the letter obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. The lawmakers say it is inappropriate for the United States to host an official believed to be enabling the Iranian regime’s global terrorism enterprise, particularly amid mass protests in Iran that threaten to topple the hardline government.
"Joe Biden publicly criticized Italy’s new conservative prime minister, but his administration is happy to roll out the red carpet for criminally corrupt officials with ties to Iranian terrorists," Banks, head of the Republican Study Committee, Congress’s largest Republican caucus, told the Free Beacon. "There is no low the Biden administration won’t stoop to for its disastrous proposed Iran deal and to avoid investing in American energy."
A State Department spokesman would not comment on the status of Ismail’s visa or the issue raised by members of Congress, telling the Free Beacon, "We cannot discuss the details of individual visa cases." In general, the spokesman said, "whenever an individual applies for a U.S. visa, a consular officer reviews the facts of the case and determines whether the applicant is eligible for that visa based on U.S. law."
Ismail has been a controversial figure in Iraqi politics due to allegations he is complicit in the Iranian regime’s efforts to skirt U.S. sanctions on its crude oil trade, which has brought in billions of dollars in revenue for the hardline regime in Tehran and enabled it to fund regional terrorist groups.
"The Oil Minister is known also to have facilitated illegal oil exports on behalf of Iran," the lawmakers write, citing information from the watchdog group United Against Nuclear Iran indicating that Iraq’s State Oil Marketing Organization has helped Tehran offload its heavily sanctioned crude as part of a scheme to evade U.S. sanctions.
Ismail is also "suspected of widescale corruption to accept bribes for the award of contracts and oil operations in Iraq," according to the lawmakers. Iraq’s al-Karkh Investigation court has already charged Ismail with 29 corruption cases and he is also "suspected of accepting bribes from the IRGC Quds Force (IRGC-QF) and international oil companies."
Given the cloud of controversy surrounding Ismail, the Republican lawmakers want to know why the Biden administration would grant him a visa and allow him to participate in high-level meetings with U.S. officials.
"At a time when the brave Iranian women are speaking out for their freedom against a ruthless regime, the Biden administration providing a visa for an individual who has long-standing relationships with multiple Iran-backed foreign terrorist groups sends a terrible message to the rest of the world," Waltz told the Free Beacon. "The Biden administration needs to isolate proxies of the Iranian regime, not embrace them by indifference towards their corruption and extensive ties to U.S.-designated terrorist groups."
Ismail, Waltz said, should be sanctioned for these ties, "not engaging in official government business in the United States."
The lawmakers are asking the White House to provide them information about who granted Ismail a U.S. visa and on what basis.
"Are you aware that this individual has been instrumental in leading Iraq’s Oil Ministry and its sub-entities to implement Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court decision which was directed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF) to dismantle the Kurdistan Region’s oil exports, and thereby its economy and ability to serve as a bulwark to Iranian regional terrorism?" they write.
"Are you aware that he along with a range of Iraqi officials are suspected of systemic corruption, largely through the oil operations of the Iraqi state, and business relationships with existing designated terrorist groups, and facilitating the illicit export of Iranian oil and fuel products?"
They also want to know if the Biden administration has determined whether Ismail has engaged in "significant transactions with designated foreign terrorist groups." If such assessments have been made, Ismail may not qualify to receive a U.S. visa, according to the lawmakers.