Democratic Senators Join Republicans in Calling for Freezing Iranian Assets After Hamas Attack on Israel
Some Democratic Senators are joining Republicans in urging the Biden administration to refreeze the $6 billion in Iranian assets that were released last month following Hamas’ attack on Israel.
Sen. Jon Tester Supports Freezing Iranian Assets
Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat from Montana, expressed his support for freezing the $6 billion in Iranian assets on the social media platform X on Tuesday. He stated, “As American intelligence officials continue to investigate the terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas, we should review our options to hold Iran accountable for any support they may have provided. At a minimum, we should immediately freeze the $6 billion in Iranian assets and explore other financial tools we have at our disposal.”
Sen. Joe Manchin Also Backs Refreezing Iranian Assets
Another Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin from West Virginia, also voiced his support for refreezing the $6 billion in Iranian assets. He stated, “I wasn’t supportive of the initial $6 billion transfer. We should absolutely freeze these Iranian assets while we also consider additional sanctions.”
Background on the Release of Iranian Funds
In September, the Biden administration made a deal with Iran to swap prisoners and release $6 billion in frozen Iranian funds. As part of the deal, Iran released five American citizens detained in Iran, and the U.S. released five Iranian citizens being held in the U.S. The deal also allowed for the transfer of $6 billion in frozen Iranian funds from South Korea to Qatar without violating U.S. sanctions.
Concerns about the Unfreezing of Funds
The unfreezing of the funds occurred nearly a month before Hamas launched a deadly attack on Israel. Republicans in the House and Senate have criticized the Biden administration for the timing of the release, calling it “false and misleading.” Sen. Marsha Blackburn, a Republican from Tennessee, stated, “Just weeks ago, the Biden administration handed over $6 billion to Iran, and today, innocent Israelis were murdered by Iran-backed terrorists. We must continue to support our strongest ally in the Middle East and their right to defend themselves against these unprovoked, horrific attacks.”
Administration’s Response and Oversight
The Biden administration has emphasized that the unfrozen funds can only be used for humanitarian purposes and that the U.S. will oversee how and when the money is spent. Jake Sullivan, the White House National Security Advisor, assured reporters that “not a dollar” of the funds has been spent. However, critics argue that the funds can still be diverted to other purposes, considering Iran’s support for Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups.