Sat. Jul 20th, 2024

The Palestinian group Hamas’s attack on Israel and the subsequent retaliation have resulted in the death of over 1,100 people, shedding light on the Iran-backed Islamist group. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has stated that Iran has not yet been able to utilize any of the $6 billion funds that were unfrozen as part of a US-Iran prisoner swap in September. While Blinken mentioned that there is no evidence linking Iran to this specific attack, he acknowledged the long-standing relationship between Iran and Hamas.

The prisoner swap deal approved by President Joe Biden in August involved five US citizens detained in Tehran being released in exchange for the transfer of $6 billion in Iranian funds that had been frozen in South Korea. Simultaneously, five Iranians held in the United States were allowed to leave.

The $6 billion consisted of Iranian money that had been blocked in South Korean banks due to the sanctions imposed on Iran’s oil exports and banking sector in 2019 by former President Donald Trump’s administration.

As of now, the funds have not been given to Iran, but are being overseen by Qatar’s central bank in Doha. US officials clarify that no US taxpayer dollars were involved in this transaction, as the money belonged to Iran and was stuck in a South Korean bank.

The terms of the prisoner swap dictate that the funds can only be used for humanitarian-related purposes, such as purchasing food or other goods outside of Iran for import. Brian Nelson, the US Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and finance, emphasized that none of the money held in restricted accounts in Doha has been spent, and any suggestion otherwise is false and misleading.

Due to the necessary due diligence related to the swap, it will take several months for Iran to spend the money. Furthermore, the State Department reiterates that the funds can only be used to purchase essential items for the people of Iran, such as food, medicine, medical devices, and agricultural products.

Critics of the deal, particularly Republican contenders for the 2024 presidential nomination, have tried to connect Biden’s Iran deal with the attacks on Israel. Some have incorrectly alleged that Biden or US taxpayers funded these attacks. They argue that providing Iran with access to the funds improves its financial situation, freeing up money for other purposes.

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