Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is calling on President Biden to refreeze $6 billion in Iranian funds in the wake of the recent attacks on Israel by Hamas.
In a lengthy address laying out a five-step plan to address the escalating conflict in Israel, McCarthy took aim at the Biden administration for its prisoner swap with Iran and its decision to unfreeze $6 billion in frozen Iranian funds in exchange for the freedom of five wrongfully detained American citizens.
“Biden’s policy on appeasement, including money for hostage deals, must come to an end,” McCarthy said Monday. “His policy has only emboldened terrorists. And handing over $6 billion to Iran only helps the cause. In explaining that to members of Congress, they said they had provisions to refreeze the money if Iran has done something wrong. They should freeze the money back today.”
The $6 billion has become a rallying cry for critics of the Biden administration in the wake of the attacks on Israel. Many Republicans say that the move freed up resources for Iran’s military spending and support of terrorism.
McCarthy, who has opened the door to potentially returning to the Speakership amid the bloodshed in Israel, also called on the Biden administration to focus on getting any Americans who may have been taken as hostages home.
“Three years ago there was not war in Europe or in Israel, but today there is,” he said. “The United States must reinstate the maximum pressure campaign against Iran. Refreezing the $6 billion is only the start.”
Last week, McCarthy became the first Speaker in history to get booted by the House, with seven Republicans voting with Democrats to strip him of his gavel.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken had pushed back on the Iranian criticism while making his rounds on Sunday news shows over the weekend. He emphasized that “not a single dollar” has been spent from the funds that have been unfrozen for the prisoner swap.
“The facts are these — no U.S. taxpayer dollars were involved,” Blinken said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “These were Iranian resources that Iran had accumulated from the sale of its oil that were stuck in a bank in South Korea. They have had from day one, under our law, under our sanctions, the right to use these monies for humanitarian purposes.”
The prisoner deal last month included the Biden administration granting clemency to five Iranians and issuing a blanket waiver for international banks to allow the transfer of $6 billion of Iranian oil sale proceeds, frozen in South Korea, to a bank in Qatar. The funds came from Iran’s oil sales that were frozen by the U.S. when relations between the two countries faltered.
Blinken reiterated that the funds were to be used only for food, medicine and other humanitarian goods.
Deputy national security adviser Jonathan Finer said early Monday that Iran was “broadly complicit” in the Hamas attack on Israel over the weekend, but noted that it was not clear whether Tehran was directly involved. He said that Iran was “without a doubt” indirectly responsible for backing and training Hamas.
“In terms of broad complicity, we are very clear about a role for Iran,” Finer told CBS. “What we have not seen yet at this moment, although we are continuing to look at it very closely, is any sort of direct involvement in the immediate attacks.”
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