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Source: NY Post

Mar 15, 2024

Biden continues Iran’s access to $10 billion just weeks after its proxy killed three American soldiers

By Richard Goldberg

Just six weeks after an Iran-backed drone strike killed three American soldiers in Jordan, President Biden has approved a sanctions waiver giving Tehran continued access to more than $10 billion — money it can use to import goods and repay debts, freeing up $10 billion elsewhere to spend on terrorism, missiles, nuclear weapons and the repression of Iranian women.

The Senate is sitting on a bill that would lock down the money, and Republicans should do whatever it takes to force an up-or-down vote.

Thursday isn’t the first time Biden has granted Iran massive sanctions relief.

The White House first opened spigots of money last summer after it struck a secret accord with Iran — brokered by Oman, reported by every major newspaper in the country and to this day never acknowledged by the administration.

The United States freed up cash for Iran’s use from previously inaccessible bank accounts and gave China a green light to import as much Iranian oil as Beijing desired.

In exchange, Iran simply agreed not to enrich uranium above the 90% weapons-grade threshold.

The deal is atrocious, of course.

Iran gets paid to expand its nuclear threat — producing more high-enriched uranium just below weapons-grade, installing more advanced centrifuges, building a new underground nuclear facility and limiting access to inspectors — while using the much-needed financial bailout to secure its hold on power and subsidize its malign activities.

The mullahs give up nothing but get a windfall nonetheless.

Under the arrangement, one major pot opened for Iran’s use was an escrow account in Baghdad where Iraq had been putting away money it owed Iran for imports of electricity — a requirement Washington imposed in exchange for allowing Baghdad to buy Iranian electricity at all.

Iranian officials estimated the account’s value at more than $10 billion.

The Biden administration issued a four-month sanctions waiver in July, for the first time authorizing Baghdad to convert the $10 billion from dinar to euros and send it on to Iranian accounts in Oman.

From there, Iran could tap the money for import and debt payments.

The State Department misleads the public by noting the money is not allowed to enter Iran, and Iran can only use it for non-illicit purposes.

But it doesn’t matter where the money sits in the world if Tehran is allowed to use it — and if the money is subsidizing non-illicit payments in one place, it frees up $10 billion elsewhere for illicit transactions.

The Oct. 7 massacre was shockingly not enough to convince the president that showering Tehran with cash is a dangerous policy.

In November, Biden extended the $10 billion waiver for another four months.

Predictably, Iran’s threats to America grew exponentially.

Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria escalated attacks on US forces, culminating in the January deaths of those three American soldiers in Jordan.

The Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen escalated missile and drone attacks in the Red Sea.

According to the United Nation’s nuclear watchdog, Iran’s stockpile of highly enriched uranium grew ever-more threatening.

Rather than cut his losses, Biden is doubling down on a bad deal.

The Financial Times this week reported the White House returned to the scene of its last crime — Oman — to trade messages with the ayatollah about his nuclear program and continued Houthi attacks from Yemen.

Biden may very well be negotiating an even larger and worse deal.

Against that backdrop, Biden extended the $10 billion waiver Thursday for another four months.

The moniker “$10 billion waiver” stems from the estimated sum of cash transferred to Iranian accounts last summer.

Iraq has continued to make electricity payments since then, while Iran has tapped the account an unknown number of times, for unknown purposes and for unknown sums.

The Biden administration is keeping secret how much money is now available and how much money Iran already spent.

Rightly outraged by this dangerous policy and its shroud of secrecy, the House passed the No Funds for Iranian Terrorism Act in November by a vote of 307–119.

The legislation is simple: It locks down the $10 billion and any other pot of money Biden tries to free up for Iran.

But the bill languishes in the Senate.

Just hours after news broke that Biden extended the $10 billion waiver, instead of allowing an up-or-down vote on the bill, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer took to the floor to call for the collapse of the democratically elected government of Israel.

For Schumer, apparently, regime change in Israel is the national-security priority — not stopping billions of dollars to the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.

But as the House demonstrated, if Republicans can force a vote, the legislation could fracture the Democratic caucus and force a showdown with the White House.

Every day that bill sits is a day Iran’s threat to US national security grows.

Senate Republicans should do whatever they can to force Schumer’s hand.

Richard Goldberg, a senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, is a former National Security Council official and senior US Senate aide.

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