Blackburn Leads Senate Legislation to Weaken Iran–China Ties

Blackburn Leads Senate Legislation to Weaken Iran–China Ties
Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) at a news conference on the Supreme Court at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington on July 19, 2023. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
Frank Fang

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and seven of her Republican colleagues have introduced legislation aimed at weakening the relationship between Iran and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

“Iran would love nothing more than to enter into another nuclear deal that props up their terrorist activity and also benefits their fellow New Axis of Evil partner—Communist China,” Ms. Blackburn said in a Dec. 5 statement accompanying the legislation.

“As Iran and the CCP commit egregious human rights abuses against their own citizens and Iran-backed Hamas enacts horrific violence against Israel, it has become increasingly critical that the Biden administration holds the Iranian regime fully accountable,” she added. “There must be no nuclear deal until we can ensure our national security interests are protected.”

The legislation, called the Iran China Accountability Act, would require a two-thirds vote in the Senate to ratify any nuclear agreement with Iran.

It would also freeze any federal funds for a nuclear agreement on several conditions: Iran’s terminating “all agreements involving a strategic military or security partnership” with China, the CCP’s ceasing the incarceration of Uyghurs in concentration camps in China’s far-western Xinjiang region, Iran’s terminating “all ties and transfers of cash to Iranian proxy forces, including Hamas,” and Iran’s having verified the “destruction of any and all chemical weapons, materials, and infrastructure,” according to the language of the bill.
China and Iran signed a 25-year cooperation agreement in 2021 to strengthen their economic and political alliance. The two nations agreed to deepen their strategic cooperation in August, following a meeting between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and his Iranian counterpart, Ebrahim Raisi, on the sidelines of the 15th BRICS summit in Johannesburg.

The legislation also condemns the Hamas terrorist group for its attacks on Israel.

The co-sponsors of the legislation are Sens. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), and Rick Scott (R-Fla.).

“China and Iran have formed an alliance, along with Russia, with the goal of undermining the United States, waging war against our allies, and committing mass human rights atrocities,” Mr. Cruz said in a statement. “Iran’s aggression and terrorism are funded through cooperation by China, which receives enormous benefit by violating American sanctions on the Ayatollah.

“The Biden administration stopped enforcing those sanctions, and is still looking to enter into another catastrophic deal and dismantle pressure. I am proud to work with my colleagues on blocking that reckless policy.”

The United States has sanctioned Chinese entities for helping Iran to develop its ballistic missile and drone programs and for getting involved in Iran’s petrochemical and petroleum trade. In September, the U.S. Justice Department announced that it had seized nearly a million barrels of Iranian oil allegedly en route to China in April.
In September, the Biden administration agreed to a deal with Iran to swap prisoners and release $6 billion in frozen Iranian funds. The agreement immediately drew criticism from Republican lawmakers, including Ms. Blackburn.
“The U.S. should not be negotiating with terrorists. Period,” Ms. Blackburn wrote in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Sept. 13. In a video clip in her post, she said: “What do you think Iran is going to do with that money? I tell you, I don’t think they are going to do something helpful to the United States.”
On Dec. 5, the House passed the No Funds for Iranian Terrorism Act with a vote of 307–119, blocking Iran from accessing the $6 billion in unfrozen funds.
The Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States recently sounded the alarm about nuclear threats posed by China and Russia. In a report released earlier this month, the commission said the United States must expand and modernize its nuclear arsenal beyond planned improvements.

“The size and composition of the nuclear force must account for the possibility of combined aggression from Russia and China,” the commission wrote.