Mark Segar and Leah Millis/ReutersThe Biden administration may approve a sanctions waiver on Tuesday that would allow Iran to access at least $10 billion in previously frozen funds held in Iraq, a closely watched decision that comes a months after the Tehran-backed terrorist group Hamas attacked Israel. which left 1,200 dead.
The waiver extends the multibillion-dollar sanctions relief first issued in July that expires tomorrow. It allowed Iraq to transfer frozen electricity payments to Iranian-owned bank accounts in Europe and Oman. The waiver change has fueled concerns that the Biden administration is continuing to provide financial means for Tehran while the country’s terrorist proxies are wreaking havoc across the Middle East.
“The world lives in a post-Oct. 7 world, but the White House is still running an Oct. 6 policy toward Iran,” said Richard Goldberg, a senior adviser to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and an expert on sanctions that previously served on the White House National Security Council, told the Washington Free Beacon, referring to the Hamas attack last month. “Why does Iran have any access to more than $10 billion after sponsoring one of the worst terrorist attacks against American citizens and the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust? It makes more sense to freeze all these accounts and keep every penny out of Tehran’s hands.”
While the Biden administration halted a $6 billion ransom payment to Iran after a Congressional pressure campaign, the waiver of Iraq-Europe-Oman sanctions would signal that the United States is still trying to provide financial relief to hardline regime. Iranian military officials warned on Monday that the war in Gaza “is spreading to neighboring Lebanon and may expand in scope” as Iran-armed Hezbollah fighters become more active in the conflict. Tehran also rallied Arab countries against Israel, threatening to prolong the war and open more fronts.
The Trump administration has allowed Iraq to import electricity and gas from Iran, but on the condition that the payments are kept in an escrow account in Baghdad. The Biden administration continued to issue that waiver, and then expanded it in July to allow Iraq to move more than $10 billion abroad, enabling Tehran to obtain funds for its budget and humanitarian needs. . In late October, the governor of the Central Bank of Iran reportedly discussed facilitating Iran’s access to funds with his Omani counterpart.
In testimony before Congress late last month, Goldberg advised Congress to freeze $10 billion as punishment for Tehran’s role in supporting Hamas’ war against Israel.
The Biden administration insisted that, like the $6 billion held by Qatar, Iran could only use $10 billion for unauthorized purposes.
Critics argue that because the money is available, access allows Iran to free up money elsewhere for illegal activities.
Republican lawmakers in Congress made this argument when they pressed the Biden administration to freeze $6 billion in ransom payments to Iran, arguing that even if the money was earmarked for humanitarian purposes, it helped hardline regime to transfer funds to terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah.
Iranian leaders in recent days have emphasized the importance of paying for electricity, reportedly telling Omani leaders that they should “facilitate the use of new foreign resources exchange” and signaling that the regime is counting on the Biden administration to continue releasing this money.
The State Department declined to comment on the sanctions waiver or confirm whether it would be renewed this week.