Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, led a bipartisan, bicameral effort calling on President Joe Biden to respond to Iranian threats against Americans and American companies that have prevented the transfer of seized oil from the Suez Rajan tanker off the coast of Texas for months.
In the letter to Biden, the lawmakers argued for the importance of the counter-Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) petroleum sanctions enforcement program, which has seized over $200 million in illicit Iranian oil and deprived the IRGC of resources to engage in terrorism and target Americans. However, the months-long delay in transferring the oil on board the tanker has stalled the United States’ ability to complete this operation and support American victims of terrorism through the U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism (USVSST) Fund.
The lawmakers wrote in part, “The ability for a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) to prevent the transfer of seized assets within U.S. territorial waters is an unprecedented intimidation effort that threatens to undermine our Nation’s security. No American citizen or company should ever fear retaliation from an FTO for assisting in lawful law enforcement activities or engaging in lawful commerce.”
The lawmakers continued, “We request that you work expeditiously to resolve the delay in the transfer of seized oil from the Suez Rajan and continue to enforce the law against Foreign Terrorist Organizations, such as the IRGC. The enforcement of petroleum sanctions will become irrelevant if American citizens and companies involved constantly live in fear of Iranian retaliation. It is imperative that your administration make it clear that Iran and designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations will not be able to prevent our government from carrying out legitimate law enforcement operations.”
To protect Americans’ lives and livelihoods from intimidation attempts by our foreign adversaries, the lawmakers requested information and a timeline on the seized tanker, a list of companies that have refused to assist in this operation, and a national security assessment of Iran’s threats, as well as any actions from the Biden administration to mitigate the delay.
Ernst is joined by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.). House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) is leading this bipartisan effort in the House, joined by Representatives Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Jim Banks (R-Ind.), Don Davis (D-N.C.), and Max Miller (R-Ohio).
In April, Ernst and Blumenthal led the bipartisan push demanding President Biden enforce much-needed sanctions on Iranian oil and gas shipments.