Wednesday , 12 June 2024

US Senators Slam Blinken Over Iran Policy ‘Disaster’

iranintl – The Biden administration’s Iran policy came under intense scrutiny Tuesday, as Republican senators grilled Secretary of State Antony Blinken over a message of condolence for Ebrahim Raisi’s death, and the failure to enforce existing oil sanction.

Leading the field in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) hearing was Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) whose simmering and relentless attack seemed to have caught the seasoned diplomat off guard.

“You have presided over the worst foreign policy disaster of modern times,” was Senator Cruz’s opening line. “We now have two simultaneous wars waging: the worst war in Europe since World War Two, and the worst war in the Middle East in 50 years. Both I believe were caused by this administrations’ consistent weakness.”

‘Weakness’, ‘soft’, even ‘appeasement’, are some of the words that have been used more or less regularly by Republicans in Congress when discussing the Biden administration’s foreign policy, especially with regards to Iran.

Joe Biden had made clear before the election in 2020 that he’d scrap Donald Trump’s ‘Maximum Pressure’ doctrine against Iran, if he won. Many of Biden’s critics believe that that announcement essentially signaled to the Iranian regime that they’d have more breathing space during a Biden presidency. And that’s what many believe has happened, especially with regards to Iran’s oil exports.

Why Iran’s oil sales have increased from 300,000 during the Trump administration to 2 million barrels a day today, the Sneator asked Blinken. Because they’re determined to try to do that, we’re determined to cut them off, Blinken replied. Cruz continued his relentless questions: They weren’t determined when Trump was president?

“When you became secretary of state, how much oil Iran was selling a day,” Cruz asked Blinken. He didn’t know. “How much oil are they selling today,” Cruz continued. Blinken didn’t know, or did not want to respond. “It’s gone up from 300,000 [barrels per day] to 2 million,” Cruz put to Blinken, adding that during the same period, Iran’ ghost fleet –which helps the Iranian regime sell sanctioned oil under the radar.

Blinken stated that the Biden administration had in fact added to Iran’s sanctions, explaining the rise in Iran’s oil revenue by its determination to circumvent sanctions. But the answer did not satisfy Cruz, who had a simpler explanation. “This administration desperately wants a new Iran deal,” he wrapped up his remarks addressing Blinken. “You have been showering cash on Iran from day one.”

It is estimated that Iran has sold around $80 billion of oil during Biden’s presidency, far more than what it used to earn during the era of Maximum Pressure. Biden critics say this has happened because existing sanctions have not been enforced, with the hope that a more lenient approach would persuade Iran to cooperate on other issues of interest to the United States, most notably, the nuclear program.

“The administration’s policy is fatally flawed,” Senator Jim Risch, Ranking member of SFRC said in the hearing. “Outreach and accommodation have failed… Iran has doubled down on its support for terrorists and flooded Russia with drones and missiles… I’m proud this committee passed the most significant Iran sanctions legislation we’ve seen in years… Is the admin actually going to enforce them? Recent history suggests it won’t.”

Curiously, Blinken did not even mention Iran in his opening statement, perhaps because he anticipated the bumpy road ahead. He also doubled down on his department’s decision to “express official condolences” on Monday for Raisi’s death, stating that it had been done “many times in the past” in various administrations. It was something the US Department of State does as “a normal course of business,” he said, adding that Iranians were “probably better off” without the man known as the Butcher of Tehran.

“It’s shocking that this administration would mourn the death of the Butcher of Tehran,” Senator Barrasso said at the hearing. “He’s responsible for death, rape, torture. [It was] a terrible mistake.”

This is a sentiment that has been echoed by many Iranians who have gradually grown more critical of the Biden administration for what they see as its ‘embrace’ of the regime in Tehran and ‘betrayal’ of ordinary Iranians. Many say the Islamic Republic “responds only to force,” warning the US government that its aversion to confronting the Islamic Republic would blow out in its face –harming others in the region and in the West.

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