Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley, a staunch supporter of Israel, pushed back on Sunday after Secretary of State Antony Blinken insisted that the Biden administration does not have any evidence of Iran's direct involvement in the Israel-Hamas conflict.
In an interview with NBC News, Haley was asked whether she thought it was irresponsible for other Republican candidates to have insinuated that the Hamas attack on Israel is funded by the administration’s prisoner exchange with Iran, which saw the Biden administration issue a waiver to give Tehran access to $6 billion in Iranian oil revenue that US sanctions had blocked.
“I actually think it was irresponsible for Secretary Blinken to say that the $6 billion doesn’t weigh in here. I mean, let’s be honest with the American people and understand that Hamas knows and Iran knows they’re moving money around as we speak, because they know 6 billion is going to be released. That’s the reality,” replied Haley.
Haley further added that when she was the US ambassador to the UN, she went to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and heard that funds the Obama administration had authorized for Iran were sent to militant groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah.
“They go and spread terrorism every time they get $1,” she said. “It doesn’t go to the Iranian people. It does go to terrorist attacks, and Secretary Blinken, it’s just wrong to imply that this money is not being moved around as we speak.”
Her comments came after Blinken, in an interview on "Meet the Press," said, “We don’t have anything that shows us that Iran was directly involved in this attack, in planning it or carrying out, but that’s something we’re looking at very carefully. And we’ve got to see where the facts lead.”
However, Blinken did not reject the notion that the talks surrounding a potential deal to normalize relationships could have played a role, saying, “It’s no surprise that those who are opposed to the talks, those who are opposed to Israel normalizing its relations with its neighbors and with countries beyond the region, are: Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran.”
Reached for comment about Haley’s remarks, the State Department pointed NBC News to Blinken's earlier remarks on "Meet the Press."
Haley also warned in the interview that the US should view Hamas' attack as a "wake-up" call, arguing that Iran could enter the US through the southern border.
“We have an open border. People are coming through. They’re not being vetted. We don’t need to wait for another 9/11,” she said, adding, “You also look at the fact that America is incredibly distracted and incredibly divided, and when America’s distracted, the world is less safe. And look at what happened to Israel. They waited for them to be distracted, and that’s when your enemies move in. America needs to wake up.”
Haley has regularly stressed that the Jewish state has a right to defend itself from terrorism.
Several months ago, she addressed a special audience of Jewish leaders and community members in Montreal, Canada, in which she stressed the importance of the role of the United States in the Middle East, and the impact that had on stability in the region.
“The only way peace happens in the Middle East is if the US stands strongly and steadfastly with Israel,” she said at the time, adding, “A strong America prevents war. At the end of the day, it’s about leadership, and America has to demonstrate that leadership, including absolute support for its allies like Israel.”
Just several days ago, Haley reiterated her support for Israel as she answered online questions from young voters on Fox News.
“Israel is a great partner to us. It's a bright spot in a tough neighborhood and too many people think that Israel needs America. That's not the case, America needs Israel,” explained Haley.
“They are the front lines of defense for Iran. What we need to do is remind everybody hate is hate, whether it's racism, whether it's antisemitism. There is no place for it and it needs to be dealt with that way.”
“When you have this rhetoric, when you allow an Iranian, the President, to go and spew hate from the UN world stage after we gave $6 billion to them, that's what you get. You'll have a president who remembers Israel and US are best friends and we're going to keep it that way.”