WASHINGTON, D.C., February 6, 2024 — U.S. Senator Katie Britt (R-Ala.) recently joined Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), and a bipartisan group of their colleagues in sending a letter to President Joe Biden calling on his administration to strongly enforce sanctions against Iran’s illicit oil trade.
The Senators also stressed support for proposed legislation pending in the U.S. Senate, in light of the frequent attacks against U.S. troops since Hamas’ brutal atrocities in Israel on October 7, 2024.
“Our bipartisan Stop Harboring Iranian Petroleum Act, or SHIP Act, the End Iranian Terrorism Act, and other legislative proposals would deny Iran the financial resources it employs to attack U.S. forces and U.S. allies throughout the Middle East. We urge you to use all available authorities to proactively implement these sanctions while Congress considers enacting legislation,” wrote the Senators.
“Strengthening sanctions on Iranian oil is especially critical in light of the ongoing attacks on U.S. forces across the Middle East by Iranian-backed groups,” the Senators continued. “According to the U.S. Department of Defense, there have been more than 140 attacks on U.S. troops in the region since October 7, 2023, most recently resulting in the tragic deaths of three U.S. servicemembers and dozens of injuries this past weekend.”
“This should be a straightforward concept – the more money that Iran has, the more money that Iran has to finance terrorism against Americans and our allies,” said Senator Britt. “It’s imperative that the Biden Administration abandons appeasement and returns to a maximum pressure sanctions regime on Tehran. The only pathway to peace is through unbowed American strength, not continued waffling.”
In addition to Senators Britt, Rubio, and Hassan, the letter was signed by the Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Jim Risch (R-Idaho), and Senators Jacky Rosen (D-N.V.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), John Fetterman (D-Penn.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-N.V.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Ark.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Deb Fischer (R-Nebr.), Ted Budd (R-N.C.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), and Pete Ricketts (R-Nebr.).
The full text of the letter can be found here and below.
Dear Mr. President:
We urge you to maximize your efforts to prevent illicit trade in Iranian oil by implementing and enforcing sanctions on ships, ports, and refineries that deal in Iranian oil. Our bipartisan Stop Harboring Iranian Petroleum Act, or SHIP Act, the End Iranian Terrorism Act, and other legislative proposals would deny Iran the financial resources it employs to attack U.S. forces and U.S. allies throughout the Middle East. We urge you to use all available authorities to proactively implement these sanctions while Congress considers enacting legislation.
The barbaric October 7, 2023 attack on Israel was a stark reminder of the threats Iranian-backed terrorist groups pose to both Israelis and Americans, as well as the dangers inherent to appeasing the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran directly enabled the October 7 attacks by funding, training, and equipping Hamas and Palestine Islamic Jihad. Moreover, Iranian funding has supported proxies such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, Shia militias in Iraq and Syria, and the Houthis in Yemen.
In response to the October 7 attacks, and Iran’s subsequent mobilization of its terrorist proxy forces across the region, we urge your administration to take immediate action to deny the regime in Iran additional financial resources that it can use to continue supporting terrorism, destabilizing the Middle East, and ultimately harming Americans. These efforts should start by focusing on Iran’s expanding and lucrative illicit oil trade, which has increased over the last few years. The sanctions detailed in the SHIP and End IT Acts would help to strengthen existing sanctions, focusing on ships, ports, and refineries that permit transactions involving Iranian oil products.
Iran is now exporting on average more than 1.4 million barrels of crude oil per day, two-thirds of which ends up in the People’s Republic of China. From February 2021 to October 2023, the regime has taken in at least $88 billion from these illicit oil exports. Iran is deriving significant economic benefits from pervasive sanctions evasion, with Iran’s economy growing by four percent annually and net foreign currency reserves also increasing by 45 percent from 2021 to 2023.
Surging oil exports and increasing sanctions evasions enable Iran to increase its financial and material support for Hamas and other terrorist proxies, including Hezbollah, that threaten Israel. There is well-documented evidence that Iranian weapons were used by Hamas fighters in the October 7 attack. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of State assesses that Iran also provides Hezbollah with hundreds of millions of dollars each year, with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant estimating annual Iranian support for Hezbollah exceeds $700 million.
Strengthening sanctions on Iranian oil is especially critical in light of the ongoing attacks on U.S. forces across the Middle East by Iranian-backed groups. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, there have been more than 140 attacks on U.S. troops in the region since October 7, 2023, most recently resulting in the tragic deaths of three U.S. servicemembers and dozens of injuries this past weekend. These attacks are directly enabled by the financial and military support Iran provides to militias and other groups in Iraq and Syria. Additionally, since October 7, Iranian-backed Houthis have launched missiles and suicide drones at Israeli civilians from Yemen, shot down a U.S. MQ-9 Reaper surveillance drone over international waters, and hijacked cargo ships. The Houthis, enabled by the Iranian regime, have crippled the free flow of commerce in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.
In the wake of the October 7 terror attacks and subsequent attacks by Iran-backed proxies on U.S. forces in the Middle East, we urge you to work harder to stop Iran’s funneling of lucrative oil exports to finance terror. These exports provide a crucial lifeline to sustain and expand Iran’s sponsorship of terrorist groups whose objective is to harm U.S. interests in the Middle East and to destroy our ally, Israel.
Accordingly, we call on you to immediately take additional action to stop Iran’s illicit oil trade. Specifically, we urge you to sanction ships transporting Iranian petroleum products as well as the foreign ports and refineries that knowingly accept those products.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter.
Recently, Senator Britt, filling in for Ranking Member Tim Scott (R-S.C.) at a Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs hearing, helped lead questioning on enforcement actions the U.S. can undertake to ensure maximum pressure is exerted on Iran and their financial networks that fund terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. Senator Britt additionally outlined the Biden Administration’s inadequate usage of the existing tools at its disposal to financially constrain Iran, which has profited nearly $80 billion from oil sales since President Biden took office.
Senator Britt continues to be an outspoken proponent of strengthening sanctions on Iran to cut off its financial resources. In December of 2023, she led 30 of her Senate Republican colleagues in sending a letter to the Biden Administration urging the Treasury Department to enforce existing sanctions on Iranian steel.
In addition to Senator Rubio’s Stop Harboring Iranian Petroleum (SHIP) Act, Senator Britt is a cosponsor of Senator Tim Scott’s Solidify Iran Sanctions Act and Revoke Iranian Funding Act of 2023; Senator Hagerty’s Iran Sanctions Relief Review Act (ISRRA); and Senator Joni Ernst’s (R-Iowa) PUNISH Act of 2023.