Biden Grants Iran Billions In Sanctions Relief Amid Secret Talks Over Red Sea Attacks

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by Tyler Durden
Thursday, Mar 14, 2024 - 09:20 PM

President Joe Biden late in the day Wednesday reapproved a $10 billion sanctions waiver for Iran, drawing immediate ire from GOP lawmakers who see it as appeasing a 'rogue regime' at a moment a proxy war is still unfolding in Iraq and Syria, and as Israel's war against Hamas and Tehran-backed Hezbollah threatens to spillover in the broader region.

The State Department has sought to emphasize that the waiver program to release funds is conditioned on Iran only being able to access humanitarian supplies, including food and medicine, with it. Key exemptions have also focused on being granted access to Iraq electricity supplies.

Via AP

Republican hawks have seen this as an example of another Democratic administration caving, but this time at a crucial moment where the war against Hamas is raging, and the Islamic Republic has long been seen as a key backer of terrorists in Gaza.

Iran International has concluded of the Biden administration controversy, "If the administration’s plan was to keep the region – and Iran – quiet until after the 2024 US election – the recent developments have proven that plan to have backfired."

The way that Iran has utilized previously unfrozen funds remains largely unclear, according to international reports, with critics alleging the policy frees up Tehran to pursue terror funding abroad, also in places like Yemen amid Houthi attacks on Red Sea shipping.

According to further details of Biden's Wednesday renewal of the waiver via the Free Beacon:

The sanctions waiver—which has drawn fierce GOP opposition on Capitol Hill—allows Iraq to transfer electricity payments to Iran via third-party countries. The sanctions waiver was last approved by the Biden administration in November and set to expire this month, putting the White House in a tight position as a mounting chorus of GOP lawmakers express concern about sanctions being bypassed. The authority granted in the latest waivers allows Iraq to convert dinars into Euros and transfer payments into Iranian banks accounts in Oman.

Ever since the US pullout of the JCPOA nuclear deal by the Trump administration, there's been a perpetual Republican-Democrat fight over sanctions bills, with the Dems opting to pursue compromise with Tehran based on things like prisoner exchanges and promises of good behavior. 

After Oct.7, pro-Iranian militias across Iraq and Syria began regularly sending drone and mortar attacks against US bases there. There have been well over 100 of these attacks so far, but recent weeks have been without any major incident. In Syria especially, Damascus and Hezbollah want to see the illegal American occupation ended by any means possible.

As for the ongoing Houthi attacks on US warships and international shipping in the Red Sea, Financial Times has revealed that the Biden administration has been holding secret talks with Iran, seeking to pressure Tehran to stop the Houthis:

The US has held secret talks with Iran this year in a bid to convince Tehran to use its influence over Yemen’s Houthi movement to end attacks on ships in the Red Sea, according to US and Iranian officials.

The indirect negotiations, during which Washington also raised concerns about Iran’s expanding nuclear program, took place in Oman in January and were the first between the foes in 10 months, the officials said.

The US delegation was led by the White House’s Middle East adviser Brett McGurk and its Iran envoy Abram Paley. Iranian deputy foreign minister Ali Bagheri Kani, who is also Tehran’s top nuclear negotiator, represented the Islamic republic.

These backchannel negotiations have also been described by US officials as "a method for raising the full range of threats emanating from Iran." But it is increasingly clear that Tehran and its regional proxies are increasingly in the driver's seat, and Washington is left with fewer and fewer options.