The United Sates and Qatar have apparently agreed to stop Iran from accessing $6 billion in released funds, on deposit in Qatari banks, for humanitarian purchases.
US Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo has told House Democrats that after the October 7 bloody Hamas attack on Israel and the death of more than 1,000 civilians, the US and Qatar reached the deal to deny Iran the use of the funds for buying non-sanctionable goods, the Washington Post reported.
CBS News called it a “quiet understanding”, not a formal agreement.
The Biden administration reached a hostage release deal in August to allow South Korea to unblock $6 billion of accrued Iranian oil income and transfer the money to Qatar in exchange for the release of five Americans held by Iran. The deal led to sharp criticism by Republicans, some Democrats and Iranian American activists, who labeled the released funds as “the biggest ransom payout in history”, which would embolden the Iranian regime and encourage hostage taking around the world.
According to the report, Adeyemo told lawmakers that the money “isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.”
During a presser from Israel on Thursday evening, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was asked about the Washington Post report. “None of the funds that now have gone to Qatar have actually been spent or accessed in any way by Iran,” he said dodging a direct answer if the US have agreed to block Tehran’s access to the money.
“Funds from that account are overseen by the Treasury Department and can only be dispensed for humanitarian goods; food, medicine, medical equipment, and never touch Iranian hands. We have strict oversight on the funds, and we retain the right to freeze them,” he added.
Critics of the White House’s decision to give Iran access to the $6 billion argue that the money is fungible and that any funds Iran receives, regardless of how it can spend it, would free up more money for it to fund terrorism.
In a statement after the publication of the report, Iran’s mission at the United Nations rejected Adeyemo’s claim, saying that “This news is not true, and its publication questions the credibility of The Washington Post.” “US senators and government are fully aware that they cannot back out of the agreement,” Iran’s state media cited the mission as saying. Nour News, linked to Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, also reported late on Thursday that contrary to the Washington Post’s report, Iran has full access to the funds in Qatari banks.
On Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said, “These are funds that are sitting in Qatar that were made available purely for humanitarian purposes and the funds have not been touched. I wouldn’t take anything off the table in terms of future possible actions.”
Before Yellen, John Kirby, spokesperson US National Security Council had suggested that the funds “can be re-frozen” at any time. In an interview with MSNBC, Kirby said: “None of it has been allocated. None of it has been spent.”
A bipartisan bill has been introduced in the US Senate to stop the use of the funds by Iran.