Republican senators push to freeze $6 billion Iran payment after Hamas invasion

Bill would freeze $6 billion in Iranian funds, amid concerns Tehran  could use the money to support Hamas.

By Andrew Bernard, The Algemeiner

US Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Mitch McConnel (R-KY) on Wednesday announced that they would introduce legislation to formally freeze $6 billion in Iranian funds released to the regime in Tehran in a recent prisoner exchange deal amid reports of Iran’s involvement in Hamas’ terrorist assault against Israel over the weekend.

Cotton noted Iran’s moniker as the “world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism” for its support for terrorist proxies and partners such as Lebanese Hezbollah and the Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas.

“In addition to funding Hamas’ devastating terrorist attacks against Israel, the regime’s proxies have attacked dozens of American targets in the region in recent years,” Cotton said.

“The Biden administration’s decision to let Iran access the $6 billion immediately freed up other money for the regime to fund its attacks in Israel. The Biden administration should immediately re-freeze the funds.”

Sanctions on the $6 billion in frozen Iranian oil profits held in a South Korean bank were waived in September as part of a prisoner exchange deal to free five Americans held by the Iranian regime.

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That waiver allowed the funds to be a transferred to a bank in Qatar.

The American prisoners arrived in the United States on Sept. 19.

The Biden administration has noted that none of the money released to the Qatari bank has so far actually been accessed by Iran and has insisted that the funds can only be used for humanitarian purposes.

Critics, including a group of 20 Republican senators who wrote to US President Joe Biden on Monday, have countered that even pending humanitarian funds can free money to be used elsewhere.

That criticism has intensified following the Hamas invasion of Israel on Saturday that killed more than 1,200 people given Iran’s support for the terrorist group.

“Your administration claims these funds are only available for humanitarian use, but money is fungible, and there is a significant risk they could be used to further efforts by Iran or Hamas against Israel,” said Monday’s letter, led by Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).

A small but growing number of Democratic senators, including Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Joe Manchin (D-WV), have also called on Biden to formally re-freeze the funds amid questions over Iran’s involvement in the Hamas attack.

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“Until I have full confidence that Iran did not play a role in these barbaric terrorist attacks on the Israeli people, the United States should freeze the $6 billion dollars in Iranian assets,” Baldwin said in a statement on Wednesday.

Biden administration officials, who have described Iran as “complicit” in the attack but said they have no evidence it had a hand in its planning, said they have not made any policy decision about what to do with the money.

“I wouldn’t take anything off the table,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Wednesday during an economic conference in Morocco.