Senator Tim Scott, along with more than two dozen GOP senators, has formally requested a classified assessment from the State Department, Defense Department, and Treasury Department regarding the Biden administration’s strategy to “deter” Iranian aggression and prevent the “escalation of conflict” in the Middle East. This request comes following the Biden administration’s decision to issue a waiver, allowing Iran access to around $10 billion.
In a letter addressed to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Senator Scott and his colleagues expressed concerns about the lack of a “cohesive Iran strategy” within the Biden administration. They highlighted increased attacks by Iranian proxies against U.S. personnel in the region, with over 70 attacks reported by Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria since October 7.
The senators criticized the administration’s decision to provide Iran access to funds while acknowledging attacks against U.S. service members and allies. They emphasized that the timing of the waiver extension, signed the day after a U.S. strike against Iranian facilities, sends a signal to Iran that economic activities continue despite attacks.
Senator Scott and his colleagues pointed out that the administration, through the waiver extension and other actions, has given Iran access to approximately $16 billion in assets over the past four months. They stressed that this money is fungible and can be used to fund destabilizing activities across the region.
Expressing the need for a strong deterrent signal, the senators called for a comprehensive assessment of the administration’s plan to deter Iranian aggression and prevent the escalation of conflict. They specifically requested insights into how Iran might leverage the assets obtained through sanctions waivers against U.S. persons and interests. The senators set a deadline for this classified assessment, requiring it to be provided in a member or staff-level briefing no later than December 7, 2023.
Senator Scott was joined by several Republican senators, including Roger Wicker, Chuck Grassley, Mike Crapo, Thom Tillis, Kevin Cramer, Mike Braun, Ted Budd, J.D. Vance, Bill Cassidy, Pete Ricketts, Shelley Moore Capito, John Cornyn, Cynthia Lummis, Bill Hagerty, Marco Rubio, John Hoeven, Roger Marshall, Steve Daines, Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton, John Barrasso, Katie Britt, Joni Ernst, and Deb Fischer.
This letter follows a previous inquiry in August by Senator Scott and colleagues, seeking answers from the Biden administration after the release of approximately $6 billion in frozen assets to Iran in exchange for American prisoners. Administration officials had mentioned a “quiet” agreement with Qatar to restrict Iran’s access to these assets for humanitarian aid.