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March 14, 2024 | FDD Flash Brief


Latest Developments

The Biden administration renewed a sanctions waiver on March 13 that grants Iran access to $10 billion in previously escrowed funds. The waiver, which allows the Islamic Republic to use electricity revenue from Iraq for budget support and debt repayment, comes just six weeks after an Iran-backed drone attack killed three U.S. servicemembers in Jordan. The Biden administration last extended the sanctions waiver on November 14.

Expert Analysis

“The Biden administration is giving access to $10 billion to an Islamist regime that recently killed three American soldiers, wounded dozens more, shut down shipping in the Red Sea, is rapidly advancing its nuclear weapons program, and is attacking Israel.” — Mark Dubowitz, FDD CEO

“This waiver helped subsidize the murder of three American soldiers in Jordan and non-stop attacks on the U.S. Navy and American-owned ships in the Red Sea. Continuing to give Iran access to billions will only further fuel terrorism, missile proliferation, and nuclear escalation.” — Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor

“This waiver significantly diverges from those issued in the period of 2018-2023, offering Tehran considerably more advantages than previous waivers. The Biden administration’s action serves to reward Tehran, contributing to the funding of its terrorist activities and aggressive regional policies. These actions have resulted in the deaths of several Americans, disrupted global trade, and inflicted severe damage on our national security and interests.” Saeed Ghasseminejad, FDD Senior Iran and Financial Economics Advisor

Waiver Change Gives Iran Access to Funds in Oman

From 2018 to 2023, the State Department issued temporary sanctions waivers that allowed Iraq to import electricity from Iran on the condition that all payments were kept in an escrow account in Baghdad, thereby denying Iran access to the revenue. Last summer, the Biden administration changed that waiver to allow Iraq to transfer $10 billion to Iran and to deposit future payments into Iranian bank accounts in Oman. The new policy also allowed Iran to convert the money from Iraqi dinars to euros. Iran could then process euro-based transactions for imports and debt payments out of the accounts in Oman.

The Biden administration claims that the waiver is just for Iraq to physically import electricity. However, the waiver unlocks billions of dollars for Iran to use as budget support. Accessing $10 billion or more out of Oman frees up to $10 billion or more in Iran that Tehran can use for other purposes, including terrorism, missiles, and nuclear capabilities.

Waiver Extension Follows Months of Iran-Backed Attacks on U.S.

Since the administration last extended the waiver in November, an Iran-backed Iraqi militia carried out a drone attack in Jordan that killed three U.S. soldiers. In addition, the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen have used anti-ship ballistic missiles and suicide drones to continuously attack U.S. Navy ships and American-owned commercial vessels.

The waiver extension appears to be linked to an unacknowledged nuclear deal in which Iran has agreed to enrich uranium below the 90 percent weapons-grade threshold. But the International Atomic Energy Agency’s latest report showed that Iran’s high-enriched uranium stockpile has expanded over the last three months.

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