President Biden is facing a humiliating foreign policy setback as $6 billion he used to leverage the release of five imprisoned Americans from Iran could be frozen. Lawmakers including members of Biden’s own party voted on Thursday to approve a bill that would permanently freeze the funds, which were unfrozen by the White House in September as part of a controversial deal.
The bill, named the No Funds for Iranian Terrorism Act, passed in a 307 to 119 vote – which was approved by almost every Republican and 90 Democrats. The legislation would prevent the Islamic Republic of Iran from accessing the funds via sanctions, and now heads to the Senate.
It comes as Republicans have heaped pressure on the White House to U-turn on unfreezing the $6 billion in the wake of Hamas ‘ October 7 attacks, with Iran a principal supporter of the terrorist group. The prisoners-for-cash deal sparked controversy in September as it coincided with the anniversary of 9/11, as five hostages were released after the money was transferred to Qatar, which acted as an intermediary for the funds.
The US citizens held in the nation were accused of espionage on behalf of the US government in Iran, and five Iranian citizens held in the US were also released as part of the deal. The deal had been months in the works and was long expected, but Republicans reacted with fury – with Donald Trump saying the money would pay for terrorism and calling Biden an ‘incompetent fool’, and Ron DeSantis accusing Biden of ‘selling out on America.’ Following Hamas’ brutal attack that saw 1,400 people lose their lives and a further 240 taken as hostages, Biden put a temporary hold on the funds, a move that critics argued did not go far enough.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Rep. Michael McCaul, who introduced Thursday’s bill, said after his bill was approved in the House: ‘If they won’t do it, then we will. Congress will stop this money from going into Iran, not just for politics, not even for the American people, but for the victims of terrorism around the world, especially the people of Israel,’ he added. In response, the ranking Democrat on the committee Congressman Gregory Meeks, an opponent of the bill, argued that ‘not one penny’ of the unfrozen funds had yet been spent by Iran.
The potential freezing of the funds was also seen by critics as hurting ongoing negotiations to release more hostages captured by Hamas, as it would be seen as a sudden U-turn on a deal agreed over two months ago. While dozens of Hamas’ hostages have been freed amid a tenuous hold on the conflict with Israel, the terrorist group said Thursday that around 100 people are still in captivity. ‘Supporting this legislation will shoot American global credibility in the foot,’ added Meeks.
The prisoner exchange in September sparked controversy around Washington, as it came amid heightened tensions between the US and Iran as the two nations also stall over nuclear talks. Republicans reacted with fury at the deal, with many seeing it as amounting to funding Iran’s support for Hamas in its conflict with Israel. Several Republicans running to succeed Biden in the White House spoke out after the hostages returned to the US, as Trump said he had never paid to release any hostages, and added: ‘This incompetent FOOL is absolutely destroying America. He had the audacity to announce this terrible deal today, September 11th.’
His Republican rival for the presidency, DeSantis, said: ‘This deal bankrolls nuclear ambitions, hostage takers, and extremists who hate America.’ McCaul expressed support for the hostages being freed, but said he was ‘deeply concerned’ by the deal and called the timing of the announcement ‘particularly egregious.’ ‘I remain deeply concerned that the administration’s decision to waive sanctions to facilitate the transfer of $6 billion in funds for Iran, the world’s top state sponsor of terrorism, creates a direct incentive for America’s adversaries to conduct future hostage-taking,’ he said. Read the full story: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-12812127/Biden-billion-Iran-hostage-deal-freeze-hamas.html?ito=msngallery
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