Under the Biden Administration, sanctions against the ruling mullahs of Iran have simply become superficial and cosmetic. The Administration appears to be turning a blind eye when Iran's violates the sanctions, thereby allowing the regime vastly to increase its revenues. Most of these usually assist the regime's powerful militia and terror group, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), designated as a terrorist organization by the US Department of State.
Recently, US Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, led a bipartisan group of 12 Senators in urging the Biden Administration to completely enable the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) office to seize Iranian oil and gas shipments.
According to a press release on Manchin's Senate website:
Despite several additional sanctions issued against Iranian petrochemical and petroleum sales over the past year, the volume of Iranian oil exports from Iran from 2021 to 2022 increased by 35%, approximately 430 million barrels of oil, evading sanctions. When HSI seizes and processes Iranian oil, 75% of seizure revenues are allocated to the U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund.
"It is unacceptable that a U.S. government program, which makes the United States and its allies safer, provides funds to remediate the victims of terrorism, and generates income for the United States in a cost-effective manner has been allowed to languish," the Senators continued. "United States sanctions should be enforced to the fullest extent of the law. As Iranian oil sales continue to rise, and the IRGC continues to target U.S. citizens and servicemembers, including inside the U.S., it is imperative that we use all available government assets to limit the activities of the Iranian regime."
As the Senators' letter added:
"Specifically, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – Quds Force, an arm of the Iranian regime and a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, continues to sponsor attacks on U.S. citizens and servicemembers, as well as our partners and allies. Enforcement of sanctions against Iranian petrochemical and petroleum sales will defund terrorists' intent on harming the United States and our partners."
The regime's major revenues come from selling oil. The Iranian regime reportedly possesses the second-largest natural gas reserves and the fourth-largest proven crude oil reserves in the world, and the sale of oil accounts for nearly 60% of the government's total revenues and more than 80% of its export revenues. Iranian leaders have spoken of Iran's major dependence on oil exports. "Although we have some other incomes, the only revenue that can keep the country going is the oil money," then President Hassan Rouhani said in 2019.
During the Trump administration, Iran's oil exports were significantly reduced to 100,000 to 200,000 barrels a day. Iran is currently exporting more than 1 million barrels a day. "Oil sales have doubled," Iran's hardline President Ebrahim Raisi previously boasted. "We are not worried about oil sales."
Under the Biden Administration, however, which suspended new oil and gas leases on public lands and waters, Iran is now producing more oil and selling it at levels close to the pre-sanctions era to countries such as China, which desperately needs more oil. China has been steadily ramping up its oil imports from Iran, to currently nearly 1 million bpd, while global oil prices have increased. Iran reportedly is exporting more than 1.5 million bpd -- approximately 80% of the oil they used to export before the sanctions.
Iran is also shipping considerable amounts of oil to Venezuela without either country fearing repercussions from the Biden Administration. According to a June 13, 2022 report by Reuters:
"An Iran-flagged tanker carrying about 1 million barrels of crude from the Middle Eastern country arrived in Venezuelan waters over the weekend, according to a shipping document seen by Reuters on Monday.
"The cargo is the third of Iranian crude supplied by Iran's Naftiran Intertrade Co (NICO) to Venezuela's state-run oil firm PDVSA following a supply contract providing the South American nation with lighter crude. Venezuela has been processing the Iranian oil in its refineries.
"Other two Iran-flagged tankers, the very large crude carriers (VLCCs) Dino I and Silvia I, had arrived last month at Venezuelan ports carrying the first cargoes of Iranian crude for Venezuela."
The Biden Administration's appeasement policies towards Iran is contributing to the regime's increased revenue, the major beneficiaries of which are the IRGC, terrorist and militia groups -- and of course the Iranian regime's nuclear weapons program.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a business strategist and advisor, Harvard-educated scholar, political scientist, board member of Harvard International Review, and president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He has authored several books on Islam and US Foreign Policy. He can be reached at Dr.Rafizadeh@Post.Harvard.Edu