The U.S. and Qatar have agreed to stop Iran from being able to tap an unfrozen $6 billion following Hamas’ attack on Israel, Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo told House Democrats on Thursday.
The Iranian funds were unfrozen last month as part of a prisoner swap for five wrongfully detained Americans. After being moved to a bank in Doha, authorities in Qatar were charged with overseeing the money’s use strictly for humanitarian purposes as a stipulation of the swap agreement.
On Sunday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has insisted that the money had not been funneled from Iran to Hamas, despite accusations from critics in the Republican Party.
“People are either misinformed or they’re misinforming. And either way, it’s wrong,” Blinken said on Sunday.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, insisted on Tuesday that his government was not involved in Hamas’ massive surprise attack on Israel, though he did laud what he called Israel’s “irreparable” military and intelligence defeat during a televised speech.
In fact, specific intelligence collected by the U.S. suggests that top Iranian officials were caught by surprise by Hamas’ strike.
Israel has long accused Iran’s clerical rulers of stoking violence by supplying arms to Hamas. Iran has, according to analysts, provided Hamas with tens of millions of dollars, weapons and other materials smuggled into Gaza. However, Tehran reportedly doesn’t have advisers on the ground in blockaded Gaza, nor does it command the terrorist organization’s activities.
On Monday, U.S. officials had said Iran was complicit in Hamas’ assault on Israel, but both U.S. and Israeli officials conceded they were still seeking a smoking gun to link Iran to direct involvement in Hamas’ attack.
Even so, some Congressional Republicans continued to point fingers at Iran after being briefed on the latest intelligence.
“I know the Administration is woe to peg Iran as responsible, but I think that all roads lead to Iran,” House Foreign Affairs Chairman Mike McCaul (R-TX) told reporters following the briefing Wednesday. “We certainly don’t want to see this escalate, but Iran is already in this.”
Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen suggested Wednesday the door remains open to possible punitive measures against Iran, including additional sanctions.
When asked about the push to re-freeze the funds, Iran’s mission to the United Nations said in a statement, “The money rightfully belongs to the people of Iran, earmarked for the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to facilitate the acquisition of all essential and non-sanctioned requisites for the Iranians.”