Biden helped Iran in making US$80 billion from illicit oil sales


Since the Biden administration eased sanctions on Iran’s hardline regime, Iran has reportedly reaped around US$80 billion from its illicit oil sales. This influx of cash has been instrumental in supporting Iran’s allies, including groups like Hamas.

According to Claire Jungman, Chief of Staff at United Against a Nuclear Iran, an organization that closely monitors Tehran’s illicit oil exports and tanker activities, “Iran has generated approximately US$80 billion in revenue from oil sales under the Biden administration”. A significant portion of this oil is delivered to China, which remains one of Iran’s principal clients.

Iran’s oil exports have surged to a five-year high, mainly due to the Biden administration’s decision to ease economic sanctions as part of its efforts to encourage Iran to rejoin a revised version of the 2015 nuclear deal. The substantial revenue generated from these oil sales is believed to have allowed Iran to provide financial support to its regional proxies, most notably Hamas, which is currently engaged in a significant conflict with Israel, with Iran’s backing. Reports indicate that Iran played a role in planning Hamas’s recent attack and provided the group with the green light to carry it out.

“With the resurgence of Iran’s primary revenue source, oil, into play, it’s paramount to recognize the substantial financial leeway they’ve gained through years of relaxed sanctions”, Jungman explained. “This surplus not only sustained them but also significantly fortified their proxies”, such as Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The Biden administration’s policies toward Iran have come under renewed scrutiny in light of the recent Hamas attack. Besides granting Iran access to billions in oil revenue, the United States released $6 billion in frozen funds last month as part of a hostage deal. Experts believe this money helped Iran continue its funding of terror groups. Earlier this year, the administration also waived sanctions to enable Iraq to pay Iran for electricity and other debts, making an additional US$10 billion available to Iran.

In total, the administration’s recent dealings with Iran have freed up more than US$50 billion, as stated by Richard Goldberg, a former White House National Security Council member. Goldberg, now a senior adviser to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, pointed out that this situation goes beyond the US$6 billion hostage deal; it’s part of a “nuclear protection racket” that has been ongoing since May.

According to Goldberg, this approach sends a message to Iran that the United States is willing to pay any price to avoid a crisis, which could embolden Iran to use its sanctions relief to focus on undermining the one country that is actively trying to thwart its nuclear weapons ambitions: Israel.

Evidence suggests that access to this cash has enabled Iran to strengthen its terrorism infrastructure. For instance, in April, Tehran increased pay by 14 percent for its terror affiliates working with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which provides logistical support to groups like Hamas and Hezbollah.

The administration’s decision to ease sanctions on Iran’s oil trade has provided the most substantial benefit to the hardline regime. This move has garnered opposition from analysts and Republican lawmakers since President Joe Biden took office and reopened diplomatic channels with Iran.

United Against a Nuclear Iran documented at least US$44 billion in oil sales as of August 2022. This represented a 77 percent increase from the Trump administration’s period, during which strict sanctions were imposed to eliminate Iran’s oil exports.

“Enforcing sanctions on vessels involved in Iranian oil transport and those aiding such activity is a necessary step, albeit overdue, in safeguarding international stability”, Jungman stressed.

Similar demands have been made by Congress. In April, a bipartisan group of senators led by Joni Ernst (R. Iowa) and Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.) criticized the Biden administration for preventing federal agencies from seizing illicit Iranian oil tankers, arguing that this policy choice was effectively filling Iran’s coffers.


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