The Biden administration spent several years emboldening Islamic entities and nations that are currently in conflict with the U.S. and its Western allies, defense experts say.
Coalition naval and air forces launched a retaliatory strike against the Houthis for the first time on Thursday, underscoring months of broader conflict in the Middle East between the U.S., Israel and other Western allies against extremist Islamic groups. Some of these nations and groups have benefitted from the Biden administration’s foreign policy through sanctions relief and aid.
“Biden administration policies have weakened the strategic security and economic interests of the U.S. and our allies in the Middle East – with deadly consequences,” Michael Bars, former Trump White House senior communications advisor and National Security Council official, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Such is the case with the Houthis, a Yemini-based militant group backed by Iran. In an apparent show of support for Hamas’ fight against Israel, the Houthis have launched dozens of attacks in the Red Sea against commercial vessels since October 2023. U.S. forces in the region have often had to intervene in these attacks; in one case, a naval warship had to act in “self-defense” after being fired upon by the Houthis on Jan. 6, and Navy helicopters took similar actions against the militant group in a firefight in December.
The U.S. created a defense coalition of Western allies in the region in December as a warning to Houthis, but the militant group was undeterred and continued attacks, eventually leading to the retaliatory strikes against them on Thursday.
On Jan. 11 at 2:30 a.m. (Sanaa time), U.S. Central Command forces, in coordination with the United Kingdom, and support from Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, and Bahrain conducted joint strikes on Houthi targets to degrade their capability to continue their illegal and… pic.twitter.com/bR8biMolSx
— U.S. Central Command (@CENTCOM) January 12, 2024
The Houthis were designated as a terrorist organization by the Trump administration in 2021, but that label was swiftly removed by the Biden administration after President Joe Biden took office. The Biden administration removed the Houthis from the terrorist list because it was concerned over what humanitarian impacts it might have on Yemen.
The Houthis began increasing their hostilities in and outside of Yemen after the group was removed from the Biden administration’s terror list in 2021. Biden is now reconsidering adding the Houthis back to its designated terror list due to the group’s recent aggression.
“A re-designation of the Iran-supported Houthi organization… is long overdue,” Matt Zweig, a senior policy director at the Foundation of Defense for Democracies (FDD), said in a statement in November. “For far too long, they have threatened and attacked international shipping and U.S. allies and partners in the region.”
Much of the ongoing chaos in the Middle East stems from Iran, the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, as designated by the U.S. and other Western nations. Iran masterminds and funds over a dozen Islamic terrorist and militant groups throughout the Middle East, including Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthis.
The Biden administration has made several concessions to Iran since Biden took office in 2021. The administration has quietly eased oil sanction enforcement that was previously stunting Iran’s revenue; Iranian oil exports soared to roughly 2 million barrels a day as of September 2023, compared to just 400,000 barrels a day under the Trump administration.
The Biden administration cleared the way for the release of 5 American citizens detained in Iran. In exchange, the U.S. will give Tehran access to $6 billion that had been blocked by U.S. sanctions. @NBCNews‘ Lester Holt sat down exclusively with Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi. pic.twitter.com/THtt3oXjmf
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) September 12, 2023
Iran makes billions in revenue from these oil exports. Tehran recently made billions more following the recent completion of a deal with the Biden administration, which saw the release of $6 billion in previously frozen assets in exchange for five American prisoners. Critics and lawmakers warned this would only embolden Iran to act more aggressively toward the U.S.; Tehran openly admitted it would use the money wherever it wanted, despite the Biden administration claiming it was solely for humanitarian purposes.
Additionally, the Biden administration extended in November a sanctions waiver that allows Iran access to $10 billion in electricity revenues. Once again the Biden administration claimed that this money could only be used for humanitarian purposes.
However, critics have pointed out that even if this is true, it essentially frees up funds Iran already has in its cash reserves, as money is fungible. Iran frequently uses its funds to sponsor terrorism, as it has done for years.
“Biden has thrown fuel on the fire by enriching Iran massively over the past three years,” former State Department official Gabriel Noronha told the DCNF. “That not only emboldened the regime, it enabled them to train, equip, and fund their terror proxies to carry out every single attack we’ve seen in the Middle East over the past three months.”
Despite the Biden administration’s more passive stance toward Iran, Tehran maintains its aggression toward the West and has not de-escalated its nuclear program. Though it appeared to temporarily slow down its uranium enrichment process earlier in 2023 – as a result of the $6 billion “ransom” deal it made with the Biden administration – it has begun ramping up the process once again, and now has enough enriched uranium to develop three nuclear bombs.
Hamas, the Iranian-backed terrorist group based in the Gaza Strip, has also benefitted from the Biden administration’s foreign policy. The Biden administration has sent approximately $5.5 million in aid to Gaza since Biden took office in 2021, and $90 million in additional funding is granted annually to United Nations agencies operating in the region.
The Biden administration scrambled in November to send $100 million in emergency humanitarian aid to Gaza, as the region that has become the scene of war between Israel and Hamas following the terror group’s attacks on Oct. 7. Biden assured the public in November that the aid would “support more than one million displaced in the conflict affecting Palestinians including emergency needs in Gaza.”
However, virtually all U.S. aid delivered to Gaza has a “high risk” of benefitting Hamas, according to an internal memo from Biden’s State Department. The State Department said in October it was a “legitimate concern” that Hamas would divert U.S. assistance.
Aid trucks provided by the UAE guarded by what are likely members of Hamas police. pic.twitter.com/mmzLa1IgJW
— Joe Truzman (@JoeTruzman) December 17, 2023
The Biden administration insisted on sending the aid anyway. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have discovered that Hamas has been stealing aid and are physically beating off Gaza civilians who try to access it, according to The Jerusalem Post.
“Hamas continues to sit astride supplies that enter the Gaza Strip, with a history of using humanitarian aid to increase its power,” Joe Truzman, research analyst at FDD, said in a statement in October. “It claims the residents of Gaza do not have adequate food and fuel, while it steals from them and uses these civilians as shields in its war against Israel.”
Since 2022, the Biden administration has also provided aid to Lebanon, a country housing the Iranian-backed and highly capable Hezbollah terrorist organization, which has been in repeated conflict with Israel since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks. The Biden administration sends aid to Lebanon in the hope that the country will repress Hezbollah’s influence in the region, as the terrorist group is technically a nonstate actor, according to FDD.
Lebanon has made no attempt to stop Hezbollah despite the gift of aid from the Biden administration, even though that violates the country’s U.N. security resolutions, according to FDD. The Lebanese government claims it will implement these resolutions if the U.S. and other surrounding Arab states allow the election of a Hezbollah-friendly president, essentially an attempt “to blackmail Washington using security obligations it is already required to fulfill under international law,” according to FDD senior fellow David Daoud.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Post written by Jake Smith. Republished with permission from DCNF.