OAN’s Stephanie Stahl
3:26 PM – Wednesday, November 15, 2023
The United States has granted a four-month extension to a sanctions waiver, allowing Iraq to keep buying electricity from Iran and providing Iran with restricted access to the funds generated, allowing them to buy essential humanitarian goods.
Around $10 billion in payments from Iraq for Iranian electricity is currently held in escrow accounts in Iraq. The waiver ensures that Baghdad can continue importing energy without facing U.S. penalties for violating sanctions on Iran.
The extension was signed by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and transmitted to Congress on Tuesday.
According to United States officials, Blinken approved the waiver to prevent cutting off Iraq from a vital energy source. The officials expressed confidence that Iran would not misuse the funds for dubious purposes. They highlighted the implementation of a thorough vetting process to ensure that the money is strictly allocated for essential purposes such as food, medicine, medical equipment, and agricultural goods.
The move was met by intense criticism from Republicans lawmakers, who believe the extension could be perceived as rewarding Iran, especially given the mounting pressure on the country to cease its support for proxy groups like Hamas, which contribute to destabilizing the Middle East.
“It is absolutely outrageous the Biden Administration continues to find ways to send Iran money — especially from Iraq, where the same Iranian-backed militias who are targeting American forces increasingly run the show and are helping keep Iraq addicted to Iranian energy,” Representative Mike Waltz, (R-Fla.) said in response to the extension.
Senator Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.) posted Wednesday to X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, writing “The Biden Admin has cleared the way for $10 billion to go to Iran.”
The waiver resembles one previously endorsed by Blinken earlier this year, releasing approximately $6 billion from South Korea, intended for Iranian oil imports. This was done in exchange for the release of Americans held captive by Tehran. Similar to the earlier waiver, the funds held by South Korea were transferred to banks in Qatar and are strictly earmarked for the acquisition of humanitarian supplies.
Critics wary of Iran’s activities emphasize that such waivers could potentially enable Iran to redirect domestic revenue, originally intended for humanitarian goods, towards supporting proxies like Hamas, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and the Houthis in Yemen.
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