The Biden administration is expected to grant approval for a sanctions waiver on Tuesday that would grant Iran access to a minimum of $10 billion in frozen funds previously held in Iraq.
This closely watched decision comes less than a month after the Tehran-backed terror group Hamas-back killed 1,200 Israelis in an attack.
Expiring tomorrow, the multibillion-dollar sanctions relief that was initially granted in July would be extended by the waiver. It permits Iraq to transfer electricity payments that have been suspended into bank accounts owned by Iran in Europe and Oman.
Concerns are being raised regarding the Biden administration’s provision of financial channels for Tehran, whose terrorist proxies sow chaos throughout the Middle East.
Referring to Hamas’s attack last month, Richard Goldberg, a senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and sanctions expert who formerly served on the White House National Security Council, told the Washington Free Beacon:
“The world is living in a post-Oct. 7 world, but the White House is still running an Oct. 6 policy toward Iran. Why should 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 would make more sense to freeze all of these accounts and keep every penny out of Tehran’s hands.”
Amid congressional pressure, the Biden administration temporarily halted a $6 billion ransom payment to Iran. However, the waiver of sanctions against Iraq, Europe, and Oman would indicate that the United States remains committed to extending financial assistance to the recalcitrant regime. On Monday, Iranian military officials issued a warning that the Gaza conflict has already “intruded into neighboring Lebanon and could potentially expand in scope” due to the increased involvement of Iranian-armed Hezbollah fighters. In addition to inciting Arab nations against Israel, Tehran has threatened to expand the fronts and prolong the conflict.
Initially, the Trump administration permitted gas and electricity imports from Iran to Iraq, but only on the condition that the payments be deposited into an escrow account in Baghdad. Subsequently, in July, the Biden administration expanded the aforementioned waiver to permit Iraq to export in excess of $10 billion. This development would allow Tehran to utilize the funds for its humanitarian and budgetary requirements. Reportedly, the governor of the Central Bank of Iran and his Omani counterpart discussed expediting Iran’s access to the funds in late October.
Goldberg advised Congress in late-last-month testimony to nail down the $10 billion in retaliation for Tehran’s support of Hamas’ war against Israel.
Similar to the $6 billion held in Qatar, the Biden administration insists that Iran may only use the $10 billion for non-sanctioned purposes.
However, critics contend that Iran’s access to fungible currency enables it to free up funds for illicit activities in other jurisdictions.