$10 bn for Iran, No US Penalties for Iraq, Sanctions Waiver
Scrutiny is on the US for granting four month sanctions waiver to Iraq to allow Baghdad to maintain its electricity imports, which means $10 billion in payments to Iran. Critics believe this will bolster Iran which is facing Western pressure to stay out of the conflict in Gaza.
The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken signed the waiver because the administration doesn’t want to cut Iraq off from a critical source of energy. The Biden administration is confident that Tehran will not be able to use the money for nefarious purposes.
They revealed that a rigorous vetting process is in place to ensure that the cash can only be used for food, medicine, medical equipment and agricultural goods. Officials also said that only a small amount of the money held in Iraq had been transferred to Oman during the past 120 days and none of the money now held in Omani banks had yet been spent.
US Face Backlash
The waiver comes at a time when there’s increasing tension in the Middle East given Israel’s war in Gaza and Iran-backed militant groups creating sporadic trouble. Senator Jim Risch, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said terror groups must be denied Iran’s resources by permanently freezing the $6 billion in Qatar, $10 billion in Iraq, and enforcing sanctions for China’s purchases of Iranian oil.
Senator Marsha Blackburn posted on X that Iran financially supports Hamas’ terrorism, why would Biden want to send another $10 billion to Tehran. House Majority Leader Steve Scalise said they will bring a bill to the Floor this Thursday to freeze the $6 billion that Joe Biden wants to give to Iran.
Moreover, President Biden’s Iran policy is being described as appeasement. And this has only emboldened the Iranian regime in its nuclear program as well as its direct and indirect attacks on US interests in the region.
The US waiver and release of Tehran’s $10 billion comes despite Iranian officials warning that the Gaza war has already spilled over into Lebanon and may even widen in scope as Iranian-armed Hezbollah fighters become more active in the conflict.
Waivers Were Issued in 2018
Matthew Miller, US State Department spokesman, defended the decision saying the waivers had been issued back in 2018. “We have seen Iran continue its destabilizing activities throughout that time, just as they did before the Trump administration issued the first of these waivers in 2018, which is why we have held them accountable through strikes against their proxy militias in the region and through the sanctions.
“They choose to fund destabilizing activities first. They always have, as far as we can tell, they always will. So when it – looking at this money, we see the benefit to allowing these funds to move again to restricted accounts where they can only benefit the Iranian people.”