A group of bipartisan lawmakers, led by Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), have written a letter to President Biden, urging him to resolve the ongoing delay surrounding the transfer of oil from an Iranian oil tanker that was seized. The lawmakers argue that if the delay continues, it could undermine the effectiveness of current oil sanctions against Iran.
The focus of the dispute is the Suez Rajan oil tanker, which was captured off the coast of Galveston, Texas in May. Concerns about potential retaliation from Iran have led to the delay in offloading the cargo. A senior commander from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard’s navy has issued a warning against unloading Iranian oil from seized tankers, following Iran’s recent seizures of multiple vessels in the Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman.
The bipartisan group, which includes members from both the House and Senate, including Representative Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), argues that the delay in the face of Iranian threats only serves to strengthen Iran’s position. They believe that no American citizen or company should be afraid of retaliation from foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) for engaging in lawful law enforcement activities or commerce.
Currently, the Suez Rajan is carrying 800,000 barrels of oil worth around $56 million. If the seized assets were to be sold, 75% of the proceeds would be deposited into the U.S. Victims of State-Sponsored Terrorism Fund (USVSST), which provides compensation to victims and survivors of terrorism.
In their letter to President Biden, the lawmakers stress the importance of making it clear that Iran and designated FTOs cannot hinder legitimate law enforcement operations. They also highlight that seizing these assets could help bridge the gap between committed and available resources for the USVSST fund. Currently, there are insufficient funds to authorize additional payments from the fund in 2024.
Stefanik believes that Iran’s threats and actions against Western ships are a result of the Biden Administration’s perceived prioritization of the nuclear agreement over national security. She argues that this behavior demonstrates weakness on the global stage and ultimately boosts Iran’s confidence.
As the situation remains unresolved, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are increasing pressure on the Biden administration to address the issue and protect American interests in the face of Iranian threats.