Iran has a long history of terrorism and was recently implicated in assassination attempts against former US officials. Yet, the Biden administration appears intent on securing another nuclear deal with the Islamic nation, supposedly keeping them from acquiring an atomic weapon. While it may work in the short term, some believe there are other things to consider when lifting sanctions, thereby providing trillions of dollars to a country intent on spreading terrorism around the globe.
In March 2022, Gen. Stephen Townsend, then-commander of US Africa Command (AFCOM), told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Iranian leaders would use resources provided to them through the relief to increase terrorist operations in Africa. In response, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Rep. Mike Waltz (R-FL) introduced the Preventing Underhanded and Nefarious Iranian Supported Homicides Act (PUNISH Act) to keep Biden in check.
General Warns Iran Would Use Sanctions Relief in Terrorist Efforts
In August, Gen. Townsend retired from the military. Before doing so, he wrote Ernst that Iran was likely to use the money to ship advanced weapons to terrorist groups in Africa and the Near East. The general also told Congress that providing them with more financial resources would help Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei expand his terror network.
This network is made up of groups like the ones who tried to kill former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton for their support in the assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani on January 3, 2020, in Iraq. The US believed he was planning attacks on Americans in the region.
Townsend’s warning came as the Biden administration worked to secure a nuclear deal with the rogue country. According to Foreign Policy, any agreement would likely be transactional and not transformational. While it might prevent them from getting a nuclear bomb in the near future, it could make it easier for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to destabilize the region as it continues efforts to confront the United States and Israel.
Republican Lawmakers Introduce PUNISH Act
On Wednesday, September 21, Ernst and Waltz introduced the PUNISH Act. If Congress passes the legislation into law, it would prohibit the administration from implementing an agreement with Iran until US officials could certify to Congress the rogue nation has not attempted to assassinate Americans for five years.
The senator wrote it’s inconceivable the administration continues to “cozy up” to the Iranians. She said the US shouldn’t relieve sanctions on the most prominent state-sponsored promoter of terrorism on the planet, which is also trying to kill US officials and citizens within the country and overseas. Ernst, who’s also a veteran, said the PUNISH Act ensures the dangerous country would continue to feel maximum pressure under the law.
No Democrats co-sponsored the legislation. On Thursday, Ernst announced they blocked the bill. It came a day after the Iranian Foreign Ministry said it continues to seek to bring those responsible for assassinating Soleimani to justice.