Oil from an Iranian tanker off Texas remains in limbo despite its seizure by American personnel, and United States lawmakers from both parties and both chambers of Congress are growing fed up after the months-long delay in transfer.
In a letter to President Joe Biden, led by U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and joined by nine other lawmakers, the authors demanded that Biden respond to Iranian threats against Americans and American companies. Such threats have kept the oil aboard the Suez Rajan from being offloaded since May, because companies fear unloading it could spark retaliation from Iran – a threat Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) made explicit last month.
The U.S. seized the Iranian oil on the Suez Rajan as part of a sanctions enforcement operation and anchored it about 50 miles from Houston. Iran has likewise seized and harassed commercial shipping vessels in recent months.
“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,” the lawmakers wrote. “No American citizen or company should ever fear retaliation from an FTO for assisting in lawful law enforcement activities or engaging in lawful commerce.”
Sanctions would become meaningless if American citizens and companies live in constant fear of retaliation as a result, they alluded, and they wanted to know which companies had refused to assist in the operation. Seized oil was also meant to support the U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund.
Building on this, the lawmakers requested a timeline on the seized tanker, as well as a national security assessment of Iran’s threats. Most importantly, they wanted to know what actions the administration has taken to alleviate the delay.
“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,” the lawmakers wrote.