WASHINGTON, D.C., October 27, 2023 – U.S. Senator Katie Britt (R-Ala.) yesterday led Republicans on the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs as they held a hearing on actions that the United States can undertake to ensure that maximum pressure is effectively exerted on Iran and the financial networks that fund terrorist groups like Hamas.
This Committee hearing came following Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel.
Filling in for Ranking Member Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Senator Britt in her opening statement spoke about the aftermath of the atrocities in Israel that she saw firsthand while visiting the Middle East this past weekend and why it is imperative for the U.S. to take strong action as quickly as possible to combat the Iranian regime’s ability to support terrorist groups.
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
On behalf of Ranking Member Scott, and my fellow Republican colleagues, I also welcome Senator Butler as the newest member of this Committee.
October 7th is a date that will forever live in infamy. It has been nearly three weeks since Hamas terrorists crossed into Israel to attack our great ally and our friend. Make no mistake: This was an act of pure evil.
I just returned from a trip to Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Egypt just this past weekend. I travelled with a bipartisan group of colleagues to send a message loud and clear to the world – that the United States of America stands with Israel.
What we saw firsthand was truly unimaginable. These barbaric terrorists wore Go Pro cameras as they committed these atrocities. So you can watch as babies were decapitated and children were shot to death in front of their parents. Parents slaughtered in front of their children. Young women raped. Entire families burned to death. Daughters and sons, sisters and brothers, kidnapped and taken to Gaza as hostages and human shields.
Over 1,400 innocent people were murdered in Israel that day, and more than 200 were taken hostage. The State Department reports that at least 10 Americans remain as hostages and that at least 33 U.S. citizens were killed on October 7th. As we sit here, we know who committed these acts of evil – these acts of terror: Hamas. And we know who funds them and trains them: that’s the Iranian regime.
That brings me to why we’re here today. This Committee has jurisdiction over our nation’s economic national security tools, including sanctions. We must use every tool at our disposal to ensure that those who carried out these attacks, and those who financially supported them will never be able to do that again. This Committee is also responsible for providing oversight to ensure that every administration enforces the laws that safeguard our national security, and the security of our allies.
That includes holding the Administration accountable when it chooses to waive or neglect those tools. That is why I would like to echo Ranking Member Scott’s request that Treasury Secretary Yellen testify before this Committee as soon as possible.
There is no question that Iran is complicit in supporting Hamas. Remember, “Evil cannot exist if the good are unafraid.” Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, providing hundreds of millions of dollars to support organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah as well as military training, weapons, and munitions.
Despite decades of Iranian support for similar atrocities, including those that have killed Americans, the Biden Administration has opted to continue the failed policies of appeasement that began during the Obama Administration. We all know that money is fungible. Despite the administration’s claims, when you release $6 billion to Iran, that frees up an equivalent of $6 billion in other funds to dedicate somewhere else, such as supporting proxy terrorist forces in Gaza. The administration should permanently restrict these funds. But since they were recklessly willing to release them in the first place, I urge all my colleagues here today to support Ranking Member Scott’s Revoke Iranian Funding Act, which I am an original cosponsor of, and this would take care of it.
The administration took actions last week to sanction a number of Hamas operatives and financial facilitators, but it was too little, too late for what happened on October 7. How long has the administration known about these financiers of terror and yet failed to act?
These are answers we need from Secretary Yellen.
The executive branch largely has the tools it needs to sanction state sponsors of terrorism – this Administration needs to actually use those tools that are in its toolbox and enforce them. We need to return to a Maximum Pressure posture towards Iran – imposing a bone-crushing, comprehensive sanctions regime that squeeze Iran financially dry.
I also want to address one more topic about this issue here at home, in a literal sense. On college campuses, in cities across the country – including this week in our nation’s capital city, and even in the halls of Congress, we have seen antisemitic protests justifying and even glorifying the actions of Hamas terrorists. This is spreading propaganda and it is absolutely unacceptable.
I never thought that in the United States of America, in this time, we would struggle to call evil, evil. The actions of Hamas should not be applauded, celebrated, or praised by any American. They are not only contrary to the core values of our nation, but every fiber in our being.
Remember: the State of Israel was created following the Holocaust, so that Jewish people wouldn’t ever have to hide again. But yet, that is what we are seeing happen today.
As Americans, we have pledged since World War II: “Never Again.”
Since October 7, that promise has been under attack both in Israel and here at home. We have a moral obligation to fulfill our promise and that under our watch, ‘Never Again,’ means ‘Never Again.’
I’ll wrap up by saying this: I’ve sat in rooms with families whose loved ones are being held hostage – twice, both in Israel and here at home. You see pictures like this of precious Abigail – three years old, that Hamas is using as a human shield. When you learn her story and the story of the remaining hostages, it will tear your heart out.
We must do more.
This Committee has the power to help ensure this never happens again. This Committee has the power to prove that America still knows good from evil.
I look forward to hearing from today’s witnesses for solutions that will allow the United States: to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel, project unwavering American strength to deter more hostile aggression, and hold accountable both those who carried out these terrorist attacks, and those who supported them.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”
During questioning, Senator Britt outlined the Biden Administration’s inadequate usage of the existing tools at its disposal to financially constrain Iran, which has been named by the State Department as the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.
“We can crack down on the sanctions violations – that’s what’s not happening,” said Danielle Pletka, a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
According to the expert witnesses, it is clear that Iran and other international actors are continuing to brazenly evade existing American financial sanctions, with the Administration not maximizing its enforcement powers. The Iranian regime is then using the profits from their illicit transactions, particularly from oil sales, to underwrite various terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah. Since President Biden took office, Iran has profited nearly $80 billion from oil sales. For comparison, during the last year of the Trump Administration, Iran’s oil sales declined to only $7.9 billion.