Joe Biden’s $6 billion payment to Iran for five hostages, which the administration agreed to last month, may be in jeopardy. A bipartisan group of lawmakers is asking that the president delay the implementation of the deal until it can be determined whether or not Iran helped plan and had advance knowledge of the Hamas attack on Israel.
“Until I have full confidence that Iran did not play a role in these barbaric terrorist attacks on the Israeli people, the United States should freeze the $6 billion dollars in Iranian assets,” wrote Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) on X.
The way the deal was set up could allow for such a deal-breaker. The U.S. ordered the money, which was being kept in South Korea, released to a bank in Qatar. While Iran claims it can use the money any way it wishes, Secretary of State Antony Blinken says that the U.S. has final approval on whether any money can be withdrawn from the Qatar bank.
If true, it’s likely that most of the cash is still in the bank, and it would be a simple matter to withhold U.S. permission to release any more of it until assurances regarding Iran’s innocence in the planning and execution of the Hamas massacre were forthcoming. Indeed, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen claims the money hasn’t been touched.
Janet Yellen, the US treasury secretary, speaking at the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh, said the administration could reverse the decision to unfreeze the money if evidence of Iran’s involvement emerged.
Republicans have voiced skepticism over the intelligence notes of caution about an Iranian hand, even though they have been echoed in some Israeli quarters.
Don Bacon, a Republican senator for Nebraska, accused the Biden administration of being “in denial” about Iran’s role, while the South Carolina senator Tim Scott, a candidate for the Republican presidential nominee, said Biden had “blood on his hands”.
But the CIA says that Iran’s leadership was “surprised” by the Hamas attack on Israel. Which members of Iran’s leadership were surprised, the CIA didn’t say. But we’re assured the intelligence is “exquisite.”
The intelligence has prompted U.S. officials to question whether officials in Tehran had a direct role in approving or planning the deadly assault. The sources said that the Biden administration has not reached a definitive conclusions about whether Iran had any direct role in the attack in part due to that intelligence reporting, the sources told NBC News.
The sources did not name the Iranian officials who were surprised by the Hamas operation. But the officials were high enough that they would usually be informed about Tehran’s support for Iran’s proxies before an attack.
The White House National Security Council and the CIA declined to comment.
Biden is already neck-deep in one war. It’s not likely that the CIA is going to find any evidence showing that Iran had advance knowledge of Hamas’s intentions, not because it doesn’t exist but because Biden doesn’t want it to exist.
The idea that the Iranian leaders the CIA was reporting on were “surprised” at the Hamas invasion doesn’t necessarily mean they had no advance knowledge of the attack. Perhaps they were surprised at the timing. Perhaps only a few key members of the leadership and the military knew about the execution of the attack.
This carefully crafted leak should be seen as nothing more than an expression of the administration’s desire to steer clear of any escalation with Iran at this point. Besides, if Israel determines that Iran was behind the massacres, the planet isn’t big enough to hide the Iranian terrorists who murdered so many helpless civilians.