Democrat blasts Biden administration for ‘helping finance an Iranian nuclear weapon’

The Biden administration has been accused of undermining its own sanctions against Iran.

By Andrew Bernard, Algemeiner

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf faced a bipartisan grilling Tuesday over Biden administration policy in the Middle East at a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee meeting on the administration’s 2024 funding requests for the region.

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) accused the Biden administration of undermining its own sanctions against Iran by allowing Iran access to the International Monetary Fund’s special drawing rights mechanism. Special drawing rights are held by central banks as an asset to stabilize a country’s currency, similar to a country holding U.S. dollars.

“Economic sanctions, which we’re imposing with one hand, we are actually planning to defeat with our other hand,” Sherman said. “That is to say, the IMF provides special drawing rights to Iran. So on the one hand, we’re trying to precipitously drive the [value] of the rial down, but in international forums, we just go along and get along…And then we’ll help finance an Iranian nuclear weapon.”

Leaf said she would have to look into the issue further and would come back with a reply about the IMF’s request for US funding.

Asked by Rep. Kathy Manning (D-NC) about rumors of a new nuclear deal with Iran, Leaf said that were was “a lot of misinformation and a lot of disinformation churning around in the media ecosystem.”

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Leaf added that while the Biden administration was still pursuing diplomacy with Iran to put the nuclear issue “back into a box,” the 2015 nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was “not actively on the table.”

The sharpest exchange of Tuesday’s hearing came over the administration’s posture towards Saudi Arabia. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) called a readout of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia “unacceptable” for its failure to mention Jamal Khashoggi.

“The man was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and dismembered and he doesn’t warrant mentioned in a summary of the conversation between our Secretary of State and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia?” Connolly asked. “That would suggest to me — who represented Mr. Khashoggi, he was my constituent — and to his family and his fiancee that this has diminished if not entirely escaped as an issue between the Saudi government and the United States government.”

“By no means, Congressman,” Leaf replied.

Leaf also downplayed the issue of Saudi Arabia’s reestablishment of relations with Iran, which was facilitated by China, saying that it did not constitute a “rapprochement.”

“Just to be clear, they didn’t broker or anything,” Leaf said of China’s role in the agreement. “They hosted a meeting at which the Iranians and the Saudis worked out an arrangement, essentially détente, It’s not a ‘reconciliation.’ It’s not a ‘rapprochement.’ It’s simply a relaxation of tensions.”

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Connolly said that Blinken’s entire visit to Saudi Arabia was “troubling.”

“What wasn’t discussed, what hasn’t been emphasized, leads one to believe that we’re moving on on issues that are pretty fundamental,” he said. “And I would predict that the administration is going to find a lot more resistance in this Congress with respect to the relationship of Saudi Arabia and the continued provision of military arms when our interests are not converging, they are diverging.”