Republican senators demand answers on $6 billion prisoner swap with Iran

A deal that should leave us all in despair.

By Hugh Fitzgerald, Front Page Magazine

Demonstrating yet again their ineptitude, the Bidenites have let themselves be hornswoggled by those masters at bazaari bargaining, the gimlet-eyed hagglers of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

In a deal that should leave us all in despair, the Bidenites have agreed to have South Korea unfreeze $6 billion in Iranian assets it had been holding, and to deliver the money to Tehran, which, in turn, will let six Iranian-American hostages go free.

That’s one billion dollars apiece. What a deal!

More than two dozen Republican Senators have now written a letter to Secretary of State Blinken and Secretary of the Treasury Yellen about the deal, questioning both its wisdom and its legality. More on the letter, and Secretary Blinken’s weak response, can be found here: “Senators Demand Answers From Biden Administration on $6 Billion Iran Prisoner Deal,” by Andrew Bernard, Algemeiner, August 18, 2023:

More than two dozen Republican Senators on Friday sent a letter to top Biden administration officials challenging their decision to unfreeze $6 billion in Iranian assets to secure the release of five Americans held by the Islamic Republic.

When the Obama administration released $400 million in liquidated assets to Iran in 2016, we warned that this dangerous precedent would put a price on American lives,” the 26 lawmakers wrote to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen. “Seven years later, the current administration is providing a ransom payment worth at least 15 times that amount to the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, in yet another violation of the United States’ long-standing ‘no concessions’ policy.”

The State Department announced the deal last week after Iran moved the prisoners to house arrest as the first stage of securing their release. Blinken said at a press conference that Iran was not receiving sanctions relief under the deal and that the rogue regime could only use the unlocked funds for humanitarian purposes.

“Iran will not be receiving any sanctions relief,” Blinken said. “And in any instance where we would engage in such efforts to bring Americans home from Iran, Iran’s own funds would be used and transferred to restricted accounts such that the monies can only be used for humanitarian purposes, which, as you know, is permitted under our sanctions. There’s an exemption for humanitarian that’s there from the start.”

This justification offered by Blinken of a rotten deal — that the $6 billion in unfrozen assets can only be used by Iran for “humanitarian purposes” — is nonsense. Money is, as the Senators deigned to point out in their reply to Blinken, fungible.

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Those six billion dollars can be used to buy food and medicine — “humanitarian items” — thus freeing up exactly six billion dollars that had been earmarked for such expenses, but will no longer be needed. And so those six billion dollars, now supplanted by these of which the Senators complained, can be used to pay for weapons to be sent to the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas in Gaza.

And not just weapons, but money too, can be sent to Iran’s allies and proxies in the region. Finally, how much of those six billion undeserved dollars will Iran now spend on its nuclear program, on more, and more advanced, centrifuges, on supplies of uranium, and on the ballistic missiles that will carry those nuclear warheads not only to Israel but also, if Tehran so decides, to Saudi oil fields, or to American bases in the Middle East and Europe.

According to press reports, the money will be transferred from South Korea, where it had been frozen, to banks in Qatar. The prisoner release could be completed by mid-September.

That gives the Republican Senators little more than a month to try to apply pressure, aided by an informed and therefore aroused public, to try to stop this deal from being consummated.

Friday’s letter [August 18], which was led by Sens. Tim Scott (R-SC) and James Risch (R-ID), poses a series of questions to the Biden administration about some of the claims that Blinken and others have made about the deal.

“Financial assets are fungible,” the letter says. “How can your departments guarantee that the funds will only be used for humanitarian purposes and will not free up additional resources that the Iranian regime can use to support terrorist networks and weapons proliferation, or increase its nuclear enrichment activities?”…

“We are also worried that your administration is attempting to sidestep Congress and pursue other pathways to financially compensate Iran in an attempt to renegotiate a successor to the ill-fated 2015 nuclear deal,” the Republican senators wrote. “Any agreement with the Iranian regime that entails financial reward for malign behavior is wholly unacceptable.”…

The financial reward in this deal is certainly for “malign behavior” — the seizure by Iran of innocent American citizens on trumped-up charges, in order to use them as hostages, precisely in the hope that they would someday prove valuable in a trade with the US.

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Another example of “bad behavior” is Iran’s nuclear program, which the Iranians have continued to work on for decades, despite all their solemn undertakings to halt or slow down the program.

The program has been intermittently slowed down only by the ever-vigilant Israelis, who have used cyberwarfare (Stuxnet), sabotage (at Natanz, twice), and assassination (of five of Iran’s most important nuclear scientists). Had it not been for Israel, Iran would by now have several nuclear weapons that we keep assuming would be used only on Israel, but would also likely be used on Saudi oilfields or, still more plausibly, on American bases in the region and even, just possibly, in Europe.

How disingenuous of Blinken to claim that this $6 billion handed over to Iran will “only be used for humanitarian purposes,” when everyone in Washington, Jerusalem, and Tehran knows that these six billion dollars supposedly to be spent only on “humanitarian” goods and services (food, medicine) will free up an equal amount that previously would have had to be spent by Iran’s government on “humanitarian” aid for its people, but can now be spent on other things.

First, that money will be spent on weapons, and financial support provided to Iran’s allies and proxies across the Middle East, from the Houthis in Yemen to Hezbollah in Lebanon to Hamas in Gaza. Second, and even more disturbing, a great part of that six billion dollars will go toward Iran’s nuclear project, to boost enrichment facilities, and to pay for ballistic missiles able to carry a nuclear weapon.

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And this six-billion-dollar ransom shows just how eager the Bidenites are to conclude a much larger, much more disastrous deal, in which they will lift the sanctions on Iran in return for hollow promises from Tehran not to enrich “any more” uranium to weapons grade. As Iran already has enough uranium enriched to 60%, just one step below weapons grade so that it could build, within just a few weeks, several nuclear weapons.

The six-billion-dollar deal is an earnest of the much bigger deal to follow if the Bidenites are not prevented from going through with this one. Sanctions relief, as the Bidenites are clearly eager to provide, will give Iran immediate access to another $131 billion, which can fuel Iranian aggression not only in the Middle East, from Yemen to Lebanon, but also help underwrite Iranian alliances outside of that area, from Russia, Iran’s new BFF, to the five “Stans” of Central Asia, to Venezuela.

Let Secretary Blinken come before a Congressional committee to be grilled on the wisdom of this deal, and on his claim that the six billion dollars delivered to Iran will “only” be spent on humanitarian purposes. The argument about the fungibility of the money to be given to Iran is one any simpleton, but apparently not Antony Blinken, can grasp.

Then let the Senators grilling Blinken describe what Iran will do with the $131 billion in sanctions relief that the feckless Bidenites are eager to provide the Islamic Republic. Such a public discussion should prove most enlightening for the American public, as well as damning for the Bidenites.