EXCLUSIVE: Sen. Tim Scott and two dozen GOP senators requested a classified assessment on the Biden administration’s plan to ‘deter’ Iranian aggression and prevent the ‘escalation of conflict’ in the Middle East.
Scott, R-S.C., penned a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday after the Biden administration’s move earlier this month to issue a waiver to provide Iran access to approximately $10 billion.
Scott and his 24 Senate colleagues said the Biden administration is lacking a ‘cohesive Iran strategy.’
Scott and the senators pointed out that Iranian proxies have increased their attacks against U.S. personnel in the region. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria have conducted more than 70 attacks against U.S. personnel since October 7.
‘United States forces have responded only three times,’ Scott and the senators wrote. ‘However, at the same time, your administration has inadvisably taken steps to unlock tens of billions of dollars for Iran to fund additional terrorist activities that directly threaten American lives.’
‘The decision to extend this waiver and allow Iran to convert Iraqi Dinars to Euros was signed the day after U.S. Central Command carried out its latest strike against facilities used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and other Iranian proxy groups in Eastern Syria, in response to their attacks against U.S. personnel,’ Scott and his Senate colleagues wrote. ‘Such timing signals to Iran that despite attacks on U.S. service members and out allies, it is business as normal on the economic front.’
The senators said that ‘money is fungible.’
‘Combined with the $10 billion waiver extension, the administration has provided Iran with access to roughly $16 billion in assets over the past four months; assets that can be used—now or in the future—to offset the cost of the Iranian regime’s increase in destabilizing activities across the region,’ they wrote.
But Scott and the senators are demanding the United States take action to prevent the war in Gaza from expanding.
‘A strong signal of deterrence—utilizing military, economic, and diplomatic tools—is needed if we want to stop the attacks against U.S. personnel and prevent the war in Gaza from expanding into a protracted regional conflict,’ they wrote. ‘Unfortunately, the administration’s military and economic responses to Iran and its proxies have not only been disproportionate, they appear to be completely disjointed.’
Scott and the senators requested a classified assessment from the State Department, Defense Department and the Treasury Department to break down the administration’s ‘plan to deter Iranian aggression and prevent the escalation of conflict in the Middle East.’
‘This assessment should include an estimation of how Iran has already leveraged—and could in the future leverage—against U.S. persons and interests the tens of billions in assets it now has access to due to your administration’s use of U.S. sanctions waivers and is to be provided in a member or staff-level briefing no later than December 7, 2023,’ they wrote.
Scott was joined by Republican Sens. 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.
The letter comes after Scott and his Senate colleagues in August demanded answers from the Biden administration after it released approximately $6 billion in frozen assets to Iran in exchange for American prisoners. Administration officials have said that there is a ‘quiet’ agreement with Qatar to block Iran from accessing the assets, which should be designated for humanitarian aid.