Influential Democratic senators have publicly pressed the Biden Administration to try to find a way to freeze $6 billion in Iranian funds over Tehran’s support for Hamas.
The pressure from within the president’s own party comes as the White House says there is no confirmation of Iran’s support for the gruesome Hamas attack – even while acknowledging Iran’s longstanding support for the group.
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), a Democratic centrist who is up for reelection in 2024, is among those calling for the funds to be refrozen.
‘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,’ he said.
Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) is among a group of Democrats calling for $6 billion in Iranian assets to be frozen
‘At a minimum, we should immediately freeze the $6 billion in Iranian assets and explore other financial tools we have at our disposal,’ he said, the Hill reported.
Also weighing in was Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who is also facing reelection. ‘I wasn’t supportive of the initial $6 billion transfer. We should absolutely freeze Iranian assets while we also consider additional statements,’ he said.
The administration negotiated the unfreezing of the funds in a deal last month that bought the release of five Americans held hostage in Iran. The then-frozen funds got transferred from South Korea to Qatar, where they are now being overseen.
Under the terms of the deal, the money must go for ‘humanitarian’ purposes, but Republican critics have raised concerns they could still get used to subsidize terror by freeing up other funds.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said he wasn’t for the original deal that freed up $6 billion in Iranian funds and won the release of five Americans
Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) cited Iran’s ‘long-standing support for Hamas’
President Biden called out ‘unadulterated evil’ in the Hamas attack on Israel, in a speech where he did not specifically name Iran, who the administration says has supported Hamas for years
It all comes as Israel prepares for a possible ground invasion of Gaza after bombing numerous targets there since Saturday’s attack inside Israel.
The White House says it is examining prior intelligence and seeking to determine whether Iran provided direct support for the attack, but has not been able to establish this so far. Israel has also said there is no ‘smoking gun.’
Sen. Jackie Rosen (D-Nev.) isn’t waiting for more information, based on what Hamas has already done.
‘In light of Hamas’s violent and horrific terrorist attack on Israel and Iran’s long-standing support for Hamas, we should freeze these assets,’ she said in a statement to Politico.
‘This was clearly an attack that was planned for months or longer, the notion that somehow there is a relationship there doesn’t pass the smell test,’ said Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the House Intelligence Chairman.
President Biden in his Tuesday speech didn’t mention Iran or the $6 billion.
‘Let me say again, any country, any organization anyone thinking of taking advantage of the situation, I have one word: don’t,’ Biden said.
Biden’s national security advisor Jake Sullivan has said ‘not a dollar’ of the $6 billion has been spent yet.
‘We’ve said since the beginning, that Iran is complicit in this attack in a broad sense, because they have provided the lion’s share of the funding for the military wing of Hamas,’ Sullivan said at the White House Tuesday.
‘They have provided training, they have provided capabilities, they have provided support, and they have had engagement in contact with Hamas over years and years.’
But he added: ‘Whether Iran knew about this attack in advance or helped plan or direct this attack, we do not, as of the moment have confirmation of that.’
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