A group of Senate Republicans led by Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) are calling on the Biden administration to refreeze the $6 billion in assets it allowed Iran to use for humanitarian purposes in exchange for the release of five American prisoners.
The money had been frozen in South Korean banks after then-President Trump banned Iranian oil exports in 2019.
Blackburn and other Republican senators wrote a letter to Biden dated Oct. 9 calling on him to stop the flow of the $6 billion into Iran, even though the funds are only supposed to be used for humanitarian purposes.
“Your administration claims these funds are only available for humanitarian use, but money is fungible, and there is significant risk they could be used to further efforts by Iran or Hamas against Israel,” they wrote.
“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,” they argued.
The senators said conducting oversight over the use of the unfrozen assets “is not enough” because “the oversight mechanism is crippled by your reported decision to pull the longstanding Treasury attaché from Qatar.”
The other signatories include Republican Sens. Thom Tillis (N.C.), Steve Daines (Mont.), Rick Scott (Fla.), Kevin Cramer (N.D.), Senate Republican Whip 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.).
They are urging the State Department to immediately rescind the waivers that will allow Iranian funds to move through accessible bank accounts in Qatar.
Biden called Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, last week to thank him for mediating the deal with Iran to free the American prisoners. The deal also included the release of five Iranian nationals held in the United States.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday disputed unsubstantiated claims that the Iranian assets may have helped pay for terror attacks outside the Gaza Strip, telling ABC’s “This Week” that “not a single dollar from that account has actually been spent to date.”
He said the unfrozen assets would be “closely regulated by the Treasury Department to make sure that it’s only used for food, for medicine, for medical equipment.”
Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called on the Biden administration Monday to refreeze the Iranian assets, as part of unveiling a five-step plan to respond to the outbreak of war in Israel.
“Biden’s policy of appeasement, including money for hostage deals, must come to an end,” McCarthy told reporters Monday. “His policy has only emboldened terrorists. And handing over $6 billion to Iran only helps the cause.
“They should freeze the money back today,” he said.