Biden Abandons Sanctions Against Iran

Secret ‘understandings’ are being withheld from Congress, as the regime’s oil exports to China are booming and victims of terror are the losers.

Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP, file
Roxanne Tahbaz holds a picture of her father, Morad Tahbaz, one of those included in the Iran hostage deal, during a protest at London, April 13, 2022. Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP, file

President Biden is busily pursuing diplomatic “understandings” with the Islamic Republic over its nuclear program, and diplomatic details are shrouded in secrecy in defiance of Congress, which is obliged to review any agreement with Iran. Yet, even before a deal is reached, and even as the White House insists otherwise, a surge in Iranian oil exports shows that the fraying of the sanction regime against Tehran is plain to see.  

Iran has exported 2.2 million oil barrels daily in the first 20 days of August, far exceeding previous  export numbers, Bloomberg reports. At current global crude prices, the oil sales add some $150 million a day to the mullahs’ dwindling coffers. As a former adviser on Iran to the State Department, Gabriel Noronha, notes, at the height of President Trump’s “maximum pressure” Iran oil exports were reduced to around 300,000 barrels a day.

The mullahs’ top client is Communist China, which imports 1.5 million Iranian oil barrels a day. Yet, a flow of Iranian oil to world markets could help lower rates at America’s pump as well. On the other hand, it surely undermines Secretary Blinken’s statement earlier this month that America “will continue to enforce all of our sanctions” and “will continue to push back on Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region and beyond.”

The occasion for Mr. Blinken’s statement was the unfreezing of $6 billion in Iranian assets held in South Korean banks in return for five American hostages Iran has held for American ransom. The ransom may also include funds recently unfrozen from Iraqi and other banks, increasing its value to $16 billion. It is part of a rapidly collapsing sanction regime. Yet, even that sum was not enough to include three American permanent residents in the deal.

As the Sun’s Benny Avni first reported, an Iranian-American, Shahab Dalili, continues to be detained at Iran’s notorious Evin prison. Two other American green card holders, Jamshid Sharmahd and Afshin Sheikholeslami Vatani, were omitted from the hostage deal, even though the Levinson Act, which sets procedures for the “wrongful detainment” of Americans abroad, defines all three as Americans for hostage negotiations, Fox News reported Monday. 

As Tehran pockets this Biden bonanza, it confirmed Monday that the process of unfreezing the $6 billion ransom and converting it to euros would take up to two additional months. The Iranian press reports meanwhile that President Raisi will meet Prime Minister Kishida on the margins of next month’s United Nations annual gabfest at New York. One agenda item: unfreezing $3 billion held in Japanese banks as part of America’s once-formidable sanctions.  

We are slightly encouraged by one piece of related news. Last February, United Against Nuclear Iran reported that an oil tanker, the Suez Rajan, was smuggling oil from Iran’s Khargh Island in violation of American sanctions. The American Navy reportedly seized the tanker, and today, the AP reports, its cargo of crude, worth up to $56 million, started being offloaded at Galveston, Texas. 

We doubt that without the publicity on the Suez Rajan the Biden administration would act to enforce the sanctions in this case. Yet, a bipartisan letter written by a group of Senators urges the White House to use the confiscated funds to compensate victims of Iranian terrorism. That would be encouraging, but seizing one tanker hardly offsets the windfall Tehran is enjoying from its dramatic rise in oil exports. 

President Biden is reportedly seeking to promote an Israel-Saudi peace treaty even as Riyadh and Jerusalem are already united over concerns that Iran’s expansionism would hurt their interests. Showering the mullahs with what the late Senator Dirksen once described as “a billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money” may satisfy avid peace processors. It is hardly a recipe for promoting peace. 

The New York Sun

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