Sunday, April 14, 2024

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The Biden administration is defending the transfer of Iranian assets.


Members of the Biden administration are appearing on media outlets to justify the transfer of frozen assets to Iran. This comes as those who oppose the administration are attempting to link an unprecedented surprise attack on Israel by Hamas, a Palestinian militant group, to the conditions of a prisoner exchange with Iran that was announced in the previous month.

In response to the recent attack by Hamas on Israel, top officials from the Biden administration have attempted to dispel rumors linking Iran to the violence. They have also denied accusations that the administration’s decision to release $6 billion in frozen Iranian assets, as part of a deal to free six American prisoners, played a role in enabling the attacks.

The Biden administration justified releasing the frozen assets by stating that the funds originally belonged to Tehran. These funds were generated from oil sales to South Korea, but faced difficulties due to currency conversion during the time when the Trump administration had eased sanctions on Iran. The U.S. is closely monitoring the spending of the account where the funds are being held and has emphasized that Iran can only use the money for humanitarian purposes, such as buying food and medicine for its citizens.

Critics, primarily from the Republican party, contended that the funds were fungible. They claimed that although the specific funds would not be used for funding terrorism globally, the release of frozen assets would increase Iran’s ability to support groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Houthi rebels, which are aligned with Tehran. They also highlighted statements made by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to NBC’s Lester Holt in September, where he stated that the money belongs to the Iranian government and people, giving them the authority to decide how to use it.

The critiques received renewed attention following the Hamas militants’ assaults, due to Iran’s longstanding backing of the group. The United States and other governments have classified the group as a terrorist organization.

Initially, authorities addressed the issue through social media before appearing on television broadcasts.

On Saturday, Adrienne Watson, the spokesperson for the National Security Council, stated on X (formerly known as Twitter) that these funds are completely unrelated to the tragic attacks that occurred today. She also emphasized that now is not the appropriate time to spread false information.

The administration’s representatives have generally maintained their stance, however, here are a few noteworthy explanations they have given to clarify the situation.

Blinken appeared on Sunday talk shows over the weekend to address the administration’s actions regarding the conflict, and he faced questions about the assets that were recently released.

During a CNN interview on “State of the Union,” Blinken expressed his disappointment with Republican backlash and criticized them for prioritizing politics over the loss of lives and ongoing attacks on Israel.

The highest-ranking representative of the country stated that no funds have been used from the account, and he assured that the account is closely overseen and controlled by officials at the Treasury Department.

Blinken has had conversations with Israeli President Isaac Herzog and other global leaders since the onset of the conflict. He will be visiting Israel and Jordan this week to demonstrate his backing and solidarity with the Israeli government.

The highest ranking representative of the country stated that no money has been used from that fund, and he assured that the fund is carefully overseen and watched by authorities at the Treasury Department.

Blinken has communicated with Israeli President Isaac Herzog and other global leaders since the commencement of the war. He will be visiting Israel and Jordan this week to demonstrate his “unity and backing” for the Israeli government.

Miller, the primary representative for the State Department, has continuously answered inquiries from journalists regarding the secured funds since the agreement was declared in August.

During an interview with “CNN This Morning” on Monday, Miller stressed that the funds were in place due to the Trump administration’s decision to allow payment to Iran. He asserted that the money could only be used for humanitarian reasons. Miller further pointed out that Iran has a history of supporting designated terrorist groups by the US and its allies, and he expressed the expectation that this support will continue. He also stated that the administration will continue to hold Iran responsible.

Kirby, one of the main public surrogates for the Biden administration’s foreign policy objectives, stuck to talking points in an appearance on Fox News on Tuesday, maintaining that “not a single dinar” of the unfrozen assets “has gone into Iran.”

During the interview, Kirby mentioned that the account’s mechanisms would prevent Iran from immediately accessing all of the funds.

Kirby stated that the Iranians would not receive the full $6 billion or even a billion at once. Instead, the funds would be distributed in smaller increments.

On Tuesday, Sullivan accompanied White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre in the briefing room to address inquiries from journalists regarding the government’s actions towards the ongoing conflict.

During a conversation with a journalist, Sullivan was asked if the Biden administration would release the assets again given the recent attacks on Israel and accusations of Iran’s involvement. Sullivan responded by stating that none of the 6 billion dollars has been spent yet, emphasizing this as a clear fact.

Sullivan, a highly trusted member of President Joe Biden’s foreign policy team, is anticipated to have a significant influence on the administration’s strategy for addressing the ongoing conflict.

Nides, the former ambassador of Washington to Israel until July of this year, refuted the notion that releasing the assets was an error.

During an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Monday, Nides echoed the sentiment, stating that the funds had not yet been utilized. However, Nides also mentioned that Hamas has consistently pursued a strategy of provoking and antagonizing Israel, and is currently attempting to incite chaos.