October 27, 2023 | Flash Brief

U.S. Attacks Iranian Facilities in Syria, but Broader Policy Remains Unchanged 

October 27, 2023 | Flash Brief

U.S. Attacks Iranian Facilities in Syria, but Broader Policy Remains Unchanged 

Latest Developments 

The United States conducted precision airstrikes on October 26 against weapons and ammunition storage facilities in Syria operated by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The attack came after the Pentagon disclosed that 19 American servicemembers suffered traumatic brain injuries due to attacks on U.S. military bases launched by Iran-backed terrorists in Iraq and Syria. President Joe Biden said on October 23 that the United States would hold Tehran accountable if it attacks U.S. troops. But the administration’s broader posture toward both Iran and another Hamas sponsor, Qatar, suggests that key policies that preceded the October 7 Hamas massacre remain in place.  

Washington has not confirmed whether it will continue to pursue its nuclear deal with Iran and allowed the United Nations missile embargo on Iran to expire last week. Meanwhile, rather than pressuring Qatar to squeeze Hamas for an unconditional release of all hostages, the administration is empowering Qatar to lead hostage negotiations with Hamas that undermine Israel’s goal of destroying the terrorist group. 

Expert Analysis 

“It’s important to ask some basic questions: What is President Biden’s policy on Iran, and what is his policy on Hamas? Are we still in a policy of paying Tehran’s nuclear extortion racket, or are we moving to deny any and all resources to the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism? On Hamas, does the president support Israel’s stated goal of eliminating Hamas? Because if he does, continuing to support Qatar in empowering Hamas significantly undermines that goal.” — Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor 

“Proxy rocket and drone attacks are part of a tried-and-true strategy by Tehran to land blows but avoid blame. Despite the hardening of the U.S. position, tough talk, and limited use of force, expect Tehran to continue to threaten a wider conflict to save its proxy.” — Behnam Ben Taleblu, FDD Senior Fellow 

Iran Reaps Benefits From U.S. Nuclear Overtures 

The United States’ lax enforcement of international oil sanctions has allowed Iran to increase the export of illicit oil and petroleum products to its allies, such as China. Iran’s oil exports jumped to nearly 2 million barrels per day in August and September of 2023, the highest since April 2019. FDD estimates that Iran’s total oil revenue since the start of the Biden administration ranges from $81 billion to $90.7 billion. Tehran uses the profits from its oil to arm anti-Israel and anti-U.S. militias throughout the Middle East, regularly targeting U.S. allies.  

In exchange for the freedom of five American hostages, the United States also agreed to release $6 billion more in funds frozen in South Korea. Iran received additional funds when the United States unfroze $10 billion in energy debt from Iraq in July. 

Moreover, the administration removed Yemen’s Houthi rebels from the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations. The Houthis have continued threatening U.S. allies, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and have launched cruise missiles toward Israel. 

Biden Fails to Pressure Qatar 

The United States is working with Qatar to free hostages taken by Hamas terrorists from Israel on October 7 despite the nation’s problematic record supporting Hamas. Qatar provides the organization with offices and an estimated $120 million to $480 million per year in funding. Doha is also home to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh when he is not in Turkey or Lebanon. Qatar’s state-funded media network, Al Jazeera, serves as a mouthpiece for Hamas and seeks to delegitimize Israel. 

Biden is Being Played by Hamas, Iran and Qatar — With Americans and Israeli Lives at Stake,” by Richard Goldberg 

U.S. Wrong to Involve Qatar and Turkey in Israeli Hostage Negotiations,” FDD Flash Brief   

Lax U.S. Sanctions Enforcement Yields Windfall for Iran’s Terrorist Proxies,” FDD Flash Brief 


Gulf States Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran Nuclear Iran Politics and Economy Iran-backed Terrorism Israel Israel at War Jihadism Military and Political Power U.S. Defense Policy and Strategy