Biden's 'Punishing' Iran Sanctions For Israel Attack End Up Being Meek Political Smokescreen

President Biden has unveiled the administration's promised new sanctions on Iran targeting the country's drone, steel and automotive industries, which is 'punishment' in response to the unprecedented Saturday overnight Iranian ballistic missile and drone attack against Israel.

Biden's Thursday statement presented the sanctions as part of his vow to help defend Israel and all about "holding Iran accountable". Biden touted that during the weekend attack, "Together with our allies and partners, the United States defended Israel."

"The sanctions target leaders and entities connected to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran’s Defense Ministry, and the Iranian government’s missile and drone program that enabled this brazen assault," he said, also emphasizing that G7 partners are committed to "acting collectively to increase economic pressure on Iran." 

bidens punishing iran sanctions for israel attack end up being meek political smokescreen
Washington Post/Getty Images

This is toward restricting "Iran's destabilizing military programs" and to utilize sanctions "that further degrade Iran’s military industries." But at the same time US have officials have reportedly been warning Israel behind the scenes that it should not pursue a military strike against Iran

Other Western allies, including Germany and the UK, have taken the US stance of wanting to cool any potential escalation which could spiral to major regional war. Prime Minister Netanyahu on Wednesday said he was receiving "all kinds of suggestions and advice," but Israel will nevertheless "make our own decisions, and the State of Israel will do everything necessary to defend itself."

A fresh Thursday statement from US Treasury said the new Iran sanctions are being coordinated with Britain, particularly measures which target the Islamic Republic's drone program.

"We're using Treasury's economic tools to degrade and disrupt key aspects of Iran's malign activity, including its UAV program and the revenue the regime generates to support its terrorism," said Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. According to details revealed thus far the sanctions target 16 individuals and two entities overseeing Iran's drone production, per Axios:

  • Five companies that provide materials for "Iran's Khuzestan Steel Company (KSC)," will also be listed, according to the release.
  • In addition, three subsidiaries of the Bahman Group, an Iranian automaker, will also be sanctioned.

But so far it doesn't look like new sanctions on Iranian oil are on the table, which will no doubt result in further Republican anger that Biden has been more worried about gasoline prices (and his own re-election chances) than Israel's security.

In the background is also the last September decision of the White House to release some $6 billion in Iranian oil revenue in exchange for the release of some hostages that were held in Iranian prisons. Critics point out that Biden could hit Tehran's military funding where it really hurts, but is intentionally turning a blind eye - specifically regarding China's massive and ongoing purchases of Iranian oil.

The Wall Street Journal also took a swipe at the administration this week:

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Tuesday that "all options" are on the table to disrupt Iran’s terror financing. Great, and we hope this means the Administration will welcome the 383-11 vote in the House Monday to expand sanctions against Chinese financial institutions that buy Iranian oil.

It's no secret the White House has been reluctant to stiffen sanctions against Iranian oil lest prices rise before the November election. The Administration has looked the other way as Chinese “teapot” refineries have imported an increasing amount of Iranian crude at a discount.

Meanwhile Iran's oil exports are at a six-year high, as FT points out: "Iran is exporting more oil than at any time for the past six years, giving its economy a $35bn-a-year boost even as western countries discuss stepping up sanctions in response to its attack on Israel."

The awkward political dance by the administration is basically summed up in this:

Yellen alluded to "all options" on Tuesday, and yet Thursday's formal announcements on anti-Iran sanctions curiously leave out anything regarding oil. "Clearly, Iran is continuing to export some oil. There may be more that we could do. I don't want to preview our actual sanctions activities, but certainly, that remains in focus as a possible area that we could address," Yellen had said.

But Republicans are expected to do something about this, in the form of stuffing Iran oil sanctions into the House foreign aid package that House Speaker Mike Johnson is looking to bring to a vote. Senator James Risch of Idaho was cited in Bloomberg as saying "The pot’s boiling right now" as there are "discussions in the two houses to include some of those kinds of things in this package that will hopefully pass out of the House."

Authored by Tyler Durden via ZeroHedge April 18th 2024