August 18, 2023
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Pete Ricketts (R-NE), a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, joined a group of 26 Republican Senators, led by U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), to demand answers from the Biden Administration after they released $6 billion in frozen assets to the Islamic Republic of Iran in exchange for the release of five American detainees.
“While we firmly believe the United States must use every appropriate resource to secure the release of American citizens wrongfully detained overseas, this decision will reinforce an incredibly dangerous precedent and will enable the Iranian regime to increase its destabilizing activities across the Middle East,” the letter said.
In 2016, the Obama administration released $400 million in assets to Iran. Seven years later the current administration liquidated 15 times that amount.
“Setting a price on American lives, sets a dangerous precedent that our other adversaries are surely watching,” Ricketts said. “Biden’s decision is yet another example of his failed appeasement-first foreign policy that endangers our national security and that of our allies. This will make Americans and our allies abroad more vulnerable.”
“We are also worried that your administration is attempting to sidestep Congress and pursue other pathways to financially compensate Iran in an attempt to renegotiate a successor to the ill-fated 2015 nuclear deal. Any agreement with the Iranian regime that entails financial reward for malign behavior is wholly unacceptable” the letter continued.
The letter concluded by asking for an in person briefing from the State Department and written responses to the below questions.
- The Iranian assets to be released were initially frozen at South Korean financial institutions in support of existing U.S. sanctions policy. Does the release of the funds violate that policy? Will the President issue a waiver and required report to Congress consistent with Section 1245 of the FY2012 National Defense Authorization Act?
- Financial assets are fungible. How can your departments guarantee that the funds will only be used for humanitarian purposes and will not free up additional resources that the Iranian regime can use to support terrorist networks and weapons proliferation, or increase its nuclear enrichment activities?
- Iran is well-versed in sanctions evasion. What specific mechanisms are in place to prevent the diversion of these assets to terrorism and to ensure the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has sufficient visibility on each proposed transaction?
- Were any alternative funding mechanisms discussed with Iran to facilitate the exchange of detainees?
- What funding mechanisms have you discussed with Iran to limit its nuclear weapons development?
- Will you commit to not allowing Iran to access its Special Drawing Rights at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and to oppose any efforts by the IMF to facilitate such access?
- What additional steps are you taking to ensure that Iran does not access any form of compensation from the IMF and other international financial institutions?
In addition to Ricketts and Tim Scott, other co-signers of the letter include Senators Jim Risch (R-ID), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Katie Britt (R-AL), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Steve Daines (R-MT), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Ted Budd (R-NC), J.D. Vance (R-OH), John Cornyn (R-TX), Joni Ernst (R-IA), John Hoeven (R-ND), Todd Young (R-IN), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Roger Marshall (R-KS), James Lankford (R-OK), Thom Tillis (R-NC), John Kennedy (R-LA), John Barrasso (R-WY), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV).
Ricketts recently condemned the Biden administration’s lack of transparency with Congress about the negotiations.
Read the full letter here.
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