Enforce sanctions on Iranian oil tankers - Senate Republicans to Biden

"The boom in oil sales has refilled the Iranian regime’s once-empty coffers, removed crucial American leverage over Iran, and encouraged the Iranians to stall negotiations in Vienna."

A WOMAN holds a picture of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, at an anti-US demonstration near the old US embassy in Tehran in 2019. (photo credit: NAZANIN TABATABAEE/REUTERS)
A WOMAN holds a picture of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, at an anti-US demonstration near the old US embassy in Tehran in 2019.
(photo credit: NAZANIN TABATABAEE/REUTERS)

WASHINGTON – A group of ten Senate Republicans wrote to US President Joe Biden on Friday urging him to enforce sanctions on Iranian oil tankers.

According to the letter, a growing fleet of oil tankers is evading US sanctions and entities are purchasing Iranian oil from these tankers. Among the senators who signed the letter: Bill Hagerty, Chuck Grassley, Tom Cotton, Joni Ernst and Ted Cruz.

“As you are aware, Iran’s energy sector is a primary source of funding to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a designated foreign terrorist organization,” the senators wrote.

The senators added that because of its critical role in funding terrorism, the National Iranian Oil Company is subject to US terrorism sanctions. “Therefore, enforcing oil sanctions against Iran is also enforcing terrorism sanctions against Iran.”

The Senate Republicans also noted that the ‘maximum pressure’ campaign “seriously reduced Iranian oil exports and curtailed the Iranian regime’s ability to finance terrorism and other malign activities. This massive drop in revenue gave the US significant leverage over Iran and impeded the regime’s strategic ambitions.”

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition conference in Las Vegas, Nov. 5, 2021. (credit: Republican Jewish Coalition/JTA)Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition conference in Las Vegas, Nov. 5, 2021. (credit: Republican Jewish Coalition/JTA)

However, they argued, these gains “have been threatened by the disturbing rise in Iranian oil exports since your administration began, despite US sanctions remaining in place.” The lawmakers added that Iran exported an estimated 418 million barrels of oil in 2021, 123 million more than in 2020.

“In recent weeks, the Chinese government has openly acknowledged importing millions of barrels of Iranian oil for its strategic petroleum reserves,” the letter said.

 “As a result of this surge in oil sales, Iranian currency reserves soared from just $4 billion at the end of 2020 to $31 billion at the end of 2021. These Chinese purchases give the Iranian regime a vital lifeline and flout US sanctions with impunity.”

The senators called on Biden to act. “While your administration has reportedly warned China and other countries about the sanctions risks to their companies, these entities remain unpunished.”

“The boom in oil sales has refilled the Iranian regime’s once-empty coffers, removed crucial American leverage over Iran, and encouraged the Iranians to stall negotiations in Vienna and irreversibly advance their pursuit of a nuclear weapon,” they wrote.

“It is long past time to stop dithering. You are putting US national security at risk. We urge you to enforce US sanctions against entities that purchase Iranian oil and against those foreign-flagged oil tankers which keep Iran’s illicit oil trade alive.”

“The radical mullahs in Iran will only abandon their nuclear ambitions when they believe [that] time is no longer on their side,” they concluded. “Decisive action by your administration can stop the regime’s malign activity; more concessions and polite expressions of impatience are not going to cut it.”