Senate Republicans, led by Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), are urging the Biden administration to halt the release of $6 billion in Iranian assets that were unfrozen for humanitarian purposes as part of a deal for the release of five American prisoners. This call comes as concerns mount over the potential misuse of these funds. The story, originally reported by The Hill, highlights the Republican senators’ concerns and the broader implications of this decision.
The $6 billion in assets had been previously frozen in South Korean banks following former President Trump’s ban on Iranian oil exports in 2019. However, as part of the negotiations for the release of American prisoners, the Biden administration allowed these funds to be released, with the stipulation that they were intended solely for humanitarian purposes.
Also cut of funding to Palestine and sanction Iran and Palestine to the hilt. Senate Republicans call on Biden to freeze $6B transfer in Iranian funds https://t.co/Xtl2Sl0fIX— DJ (@DJ87112331) October 10, 2023
In a letter dated October 9, Senator Blackburn and her Republican colleagues expressed their apprehensions about the situation. They argue that despite assurances that the funds are designated for humanitarian aid, money can be fungible, and there is a significant risk that it could be redirected to support Iran or even Hamas in their activities against Israel. The senators assert, “Moreover, allowing $6 billion to flow into Iran’s economy, even if the purpose is for humanitarian aid, allows the Iranian regime to reallocate even more funds to supporting terrorism.”
Furthermore, the senators argue that mere oversight over the use of these unfrozen assets is insufficient, especially in light of the reported withdrawal of the Treasury attaché from Qatar, which has implications for monitoring financial flows related to Iran.
The letter was signed by several Republican senators, including Thom Tillis (N.C.), Steve Daines (Mont.), Rick Scott (Fla.), Kevin Cramer (N.D.), John Thune (S.D.), James Lankford (Okla.), Mike Lee (Utah), John Cornyn (Texas), Bill Cassidy (La.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Katie Britt (Ala.), Tom Cotton (Ark.), Pete Ricketts (Neb.), Mike Braun (Ind.), Markwayne Mullin (Okla.), Eric Schmitt (Mo.), Ted Budd (N.C.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), and Roger Marshall (Kan.).
Their primary demand is for the State Department to rescind the waivers that allow Iranian funds to move through accessible bank accounts in Qatar, effectively halting the flow of these funds into Iran.
The Biden administration had recently mediated a deal with Iran for the release of American prisoners, which also resulted in the release of five Iranian nationals held in the United States. The President personally reached out to Qatar’s Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, to express gratitude for his role in brokering the agreement.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in response to concerns about the use of the unfrozen assets, refuted unsubstantiated claims that they might have funded terror attacks outside the Gaza Strip. He stated on ABC’s “This Week,” “not a single dollar from that account has actually been spent to date.” Blinken emphasized that the Treasury Department would closely regulate the use of these assets, ensuring they are exclusively directed towards food, medicine, and medical equipment.
Meanwhile, former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) voiced his support for freezing the Iranian assets once again. McCarthy unveiled a five-step plan to address the escalating conflict in Israel, part of which included halting the release of these funds. He asserted that the Biden administration’s policy of appeasement, including financial concessions in hostage deals, must end, as it has emboldened terrorists and directly contributed to the Iranian regime’s cause.
In McCarthy’s words, “They should freeze the money back today.”
The story underscores the ongoing debate within the United States regarding its dealings with Iran, with Republicans expressing deep reservations about the potential repercussions of allowing these significant funds to flow into Iran, even if they are designated for humanitarian purposes. The administration, on the other hand, maintains that strict oversight measures are in place to prevent any misuse of the assets. The resolution of this matter will likely continue to be a subject of heated political discussion in the coming weeks and months.
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