During a recent hearing by the Senate Committee on Appropriations, U.S. Senator Katie Britt, R-Ala., intensely questioned Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin regarding the Biden Administration’s approach to Iran, especially in the aftermath of the October 7 terrorist attacks on Israel by Hamas.
Hamas, known to be majorly funded, equipped, and trained by Iran, carried out these attacks, which marked the first significant assault since October 7 on Israel. The connection between Iran and Hamas underscored the urgency with which Senator Britt approached the subject. “We’ve got to take the threat of Iran seriously and look at what they’ve been doing across the globe, what they’ve been funding, and who they have been training,” she emphasized.
The Senator expressed her concerns over what she perceives as the Biden Administration’s consistent appeasement of the Iranian regime. She highlighted instances such as the relaxation of sanctions on Iran and ongoing dialogues about rejoining the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) as potential reasons that might have empowered the Tehran regime. Drawing a sharp contrast, she pointed out that since President Biden assumed office, Iran has enjoyed nearly $80 billion in oil revenues from international markets. In comparison, during the final year of the Trump Administration, this figure stood at a mere $7.9 billion.
However, Secretary Blinken disagreed with Senator Britt’s assessment that the Administration’s stance on Iran played a part in the recent Israel conflict. “It won’t surprise you that I wouldn’t agree with that statement,” Blinken responded. Senator Britt countered, stressing the need for a more aggressive approach. “We have to go back to a strategy of maximum pressure. I hope you’ll work with the other countries in the G-7 to actually do that,” she said.
Senator Britt’s concerns intensified when Secretary Blinken did not guarantee that the Biden Administration would refrain from engaging with Iran on re-entering the JCPOA, a deal that was put in place during the Obama years but was later scrapped by President Trump. Blinken defended the JCPOA, stating, “I can simply say that it was a big mistake to walk away from the JCPOA because at least it took one problem off the table, which was Iran’s nuclear program.”
The backdrop to this debate is the recent declaration by Iran in September that they would be expelling several senior inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). This move was condemned by the IAEA as “unprecedented”. Echoing these concerns, Senator Britt, along with Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., had previously penned a letter to Secretary Blinken pointing out Iran’s non-compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.