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US lawmakers propose bill to provide funding for a department assisting in Iran oil seizures.

US Senators Prepare Legislation to Enforce Oil Sanctions on Iran


Members of the United States Senate from both major political parties are collaborating on a new bill aimed at assisting the federal government in enforcing oil sanctions on Iran. Senator Joni Ernst, a Republican, is leading the effort and plans to introduce the legislation on Monday. The proposed bill will establish a $150 million Iranian sanctions enforcement fund within the Department of Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) office, with a specific focus on Iranian petroleum sanctions. Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, will co-lead the bill.

Enhancing Sanctions Enforcement

The HSI office has successfully conducted investigations leading to the seizure of two cargoes of Iranian oil since its enforcement program was activated in 2019. However, these operations often carry significant upfront costs that aren’t always readily available. Consequently, the bill aims to provide the necessary resources to support and equip HSI in its efforts to combat illegal Iranian oil sales.

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Pressuring Iran in Response to Recent Attacks

Following the October 7 attacks on Israel by Hamas, which resulted in the deaths of over 1,400 people, lawmakers in the United States are considering various legislative measures to exert pressure on Iran. While Hamas has long enjoyed support from Iran, Tehran has denied any involvement in the attacks. The proposed legislation seeks to address Iran’s alleged backing of terrorism and its illicit oil activities.

Curbing Illicit Iranian Oil Sales

In April, the US Justice Department seized a cargo carried by the Suez Rajan tanker, containing nearly 1 million barrels of Iranian oil. The cargo was intended for China, in violation of US sanctions. Senator Ernst expressed concern over the funding of Iran-backed Hamas through the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) illegal oil sales. The proposed bill aims to curb Tehran’s actions by providing additional support to HSI in enforcing sanctions against Iran.

Ensuring Resources for Seizing Shipments

Despite US sanctions on its nuclear program, Iran has seen an increase in oil exports this year. Senators Ernst and Blumenthal have urged the Biden administration to empower the HSI office to help seize shipments. Iran’s strategic location near the Strait of Hormuz, through which a significant portion of the world’s seaborne petroleum passes, gives it leverage over oil shipping. Iran has previously seized multiple oil tankers in the Gulf, underscoring the need for enhanced enforcement efforts.

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Allocation of Funds

Under existing law, 75% of funds from US oil seizures go to the US Victims of State Sponsored Terror Fund. The proposed legislation would allocate an additional 25% to the enforcement fund, capped at $500 million, with any surplus funds being used to reduce the national debt. Senator Blumenthal emphasized that the bill aims to target illicit Iranian oil activities, weaken Tehran’s influence, and provide financial support to the Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund.

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