The United States and Qatar have supposedly “agreed to deny Iran’s access to $6 billion in funds” that the White House sought to provide Tehran as a ransom payment in exchange for releasing American hostages in Iranian custody.
“The move comes amid harsh criticism, mainly from Republicans, that the Biden administration gave Iran access to a vast sum that freed up other funds for Tehran to provide support to Hamas before it attacked Israel over the weekend,” reports the New York Times, which portrays the development as some partisan victory for Republicans. This inadvertently exposes the extent to which the Biden administration was committed to transferring these funds to Iranian theocrats.
But sorry, the congressional GOP wasn’t alone in imploring the Biden administration to make the assets in South Korean banks inaccessible.
Some Democrats also implored Biden to put a lock on this money.
The White House’s reluctant capitulation should be a victory for international security, not solely Republicans. But the White House’s acquiescence does reveal how correct hawkish Republicans yet again were on questioning the Biden administration’s claims about the innocuousness of the $6 billion to the Ayatollahs.
“These funds have absolutely nothing to do with the horrific attacks today, and this is not the time to spread disinformation,” National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson insisted. Moreover, State Department spokesman Matt Miller claimed the Iranian regime could only use the funds “for humanitarian purposes.”
As noxious Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi observed, everyone loves how the money is fungible. Iran can direct those funds “wherever we need it,” he said. So, in theory, whatever cash was previously earmarked for food and medicine is now devoted to the deadly international terrorism the Islamic Republic happily funds.
“Not a dollar of that money has been spent, and I will leave it at that,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said when queried last week about the possibility the White House might refreeze these assets. When asked if the president had “considered” clamping down on these funds, he refused to respond. But even as he spoke, pressure mounted on the administration.
Responsible Sens. Mitch McConnell and Tom Cotton had prepared legislation to force the administration to reimpose the hold on these funds, and Democrats like Sens. Tammy Baldwin, Sherrod Brown, Bob Casey, Joe Manchin, Jacky Rosen, and John Tester — all with tough re-election fights in red states — appeared inclined to join them.
Indeed, on the Oct. 12 Commentary podcast, Cotton explained that he and McConnell would seek unanimous consent for their legislation, a humiliation the White House might have avoided.
Does the release of these funds now mean that Team Biden is engaging in its own “disinformation” campaign? Why refreeze the funds if they were so tightly monitored that they couldn’t contribute to the region’s destabilization, as we’ve been reminded? The administration backed itself into a corner by insisting upon refreezing these funds only after Hamas’s barbaric Oct. 7 atrocitiesagainst innocent Israelis.
The refreezing of these assets could complicate the administration’s baser instinct to surrender when Americans are held hostage, but clearly, that is a problem for another day. Today’s problem is a war in the Middle East in which the U.S. and Iran absolutely find themselves on opposite sides, even if the hard left and MAGA right still don’t quite comprehend battles between good and evil.
Ari J. Kaufman is the managing editor of the Tri-Cities Business Journal. He’s written for several newspapers, is the author of three books, is a frequent guest on radio programs, and contributes to Israel National News and here at The Lid.