Administration has emboldened Iran and its proxies, US strategy must shift

This past weekend, we bore witness to a barbaric terrorist attack launched by Hamas against Israel. This attack left more than a thousand innocent people killed, including 27 Americans, with an estimated further hundred people taken as hostages. My heart breaks for the many lives lost, and I stand ready to assist Israel in defending its country, and its citizens, against these despicable acts. But protecting our ally Israel will take more than public condemnation. We must also hold those complicit in these atrocities accountable, namely Iran.   

We have clear evidence that Iran, the leading state sponsor of terrorism, helped orchestrate these attacks in what is just the latest round of the Iranian regime’s assault on Israel and Western democracy. It’s no wonder Iran feels emboldened. Since taking office, President Biden has tried to appease the Iranian regime with an “all carrot and no stick” approach to foreign policy. This has led to the U.S. giving billions to Iran in exchange for little, if any, concessions.  

Take, for example, the administration’s decision to relax sanctions on Iranian oil sales. Relaxing sanctions has allowed Iran to generate oil revenues exceeding $80 billion annually while strengthening its relationship with China. As I warned in April 2021, using China to dodge U.S. sanctions allows Iran to funnel money to its proxy forces in the Middle East, including the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps and Hamas, which is armed, funded, and led by the Iranian regime.  

As if the boost in oil revenues wasn’t enough, the administration continues to release billions in sanctioned funds to Iran with the hope that this will restart talks on a nuclear agreement. In August, the Biden administration allowed Iran access to $6 billion in frozen funds and exchanged five Iranian criminals for the release of five American hostages. Days later, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was denied access to Iran’s nuclear facilities. All carrots, no stick. 

Let me be clear, the terrorists hellbent on murder and mayhem are responsible for the tragedy in Israel this past weekend. However, the president’s coddling of a regime that has for years provided material support to terrorism has emboldened these attacks and strained our relationships in the Middle East.  

It is past time that we change our posture towards Iran. The Biden administration should immediately cease negotiations surrounding a new nuclear agreement with Iran and impose the “Maximum Pressure” campaign that worked during the previous administration. President Biden should also reverse course on his sanctions waiver that released $6 billion in frozen oil revenues to Iran. Instead, the U.S. should consider expanding its sanctions to target Iran shipping vessels that are circumventing sanctions to provide support to Hamas. This could come through passage of Rep. Mike Lawler’s (R-N.Y.) SHIP Act. The U.S. should also continue its efforts to establish relations between Israel and Arab countries, which we know Iran strongly opposes.  

Following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, President George W. Bush stated in his Address to the Nation that “[a] great people has been moved to defend a great nation.” Over the coming days, weeks, and months, Israel will take decisive action to defend its country, reclaim its territory, and rescue its people. The U.S. will take action to ensure Israel has the resources and capabilities necessary to defeat terrorism. But if we do not shift our policy on Iran, history is tragically bound to repeat itself.  

Scott Fitzgerald represents Wisconsin’s 5th District.

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