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US ‘committed’ to deal releasing $6 billion, Iran claims

Tehran is moving closer to accessing frozen funds, according to Iranian and Qatari readouts of a call between the nations’ foreign ministers.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken holds a joint press availability with Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in Doha, Qatar, on Jan. 7, 2024. Credit: Chuck Kennedy/U.S. State Department.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken holds a joint press availability with Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in Doha, Qatar, on Jan. 7, 2024. Credit: Chuck Kennedy/U.S. State Department.

The Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed on Friday that it has Qatari assurances of Washington’s “commitment” to allowing it to use $6 billion in frozen funds, which the Biden administration released to Qatari banks.

Readouts from Tehran and Doha of a phone call between Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani—who serves as both Qatar’s foreign minister and prime minister—emphasized different things. But they agreed in principle that the deal is being implemented.

Iran’s readout said that the leaders discussed how Tehran “can use its assets in Qatar,” referring to the $6 billion released to Qatar in September in exchange for five American prisoners.

“Al Thani said his country and the U.S. are committed to the current deal and in line with an agreement between the central banks of Iran and Qatar, the agreement is being implemented,” per the Iranian readout.

Qatar is “continuing to implement the recent agreement between Iran and the United States brokered by Qatar,” per Doha’s readout.

The U.S. State Department did not respond to a query from JNS. The issue did not come up during a press conference that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken held on Monday with Jens Stoltenberg, secretary general of NATO. The State Department also did not provide a readout of Blinken’s meeting with Al Thani on Monday.

The Biden administration has repeatedly insisted that none of the $6 billion in Iranian money has been spent. After the administration said it held Iran to be complicit in Hamas’s Oct. 7 terror attacks, a U.S. Treasury Department official reportedly told House Democrats in a closed-door meeting in October that the money “isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.”

The Biden administration has also said many times that if Tehran did spend the money, it could only use it for humanitarian purposes.

In December, JNS was the first to report that a senior U.S. official said publicly for the first time that Iran had accessed $10 billion, held in Omani banks under similar conditions to the Qatari accounts, as part of two “transactions.” The official did not provide details about the transactions in the public hearing.

John Kirby, coordinator for strategic communications at the National Security Council of the White House, was asked about the two transactions at a Jan. 4 White House press conference. “I don’t have the details on that,” he said. “You’re going to have to let me get back to you on that.”

Blinken Al Thani
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, prime minister and foreign minister of Qatar, at the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 29, 2024. Credit: Chuck Kennedy/U.S. State Department.

Critics of the $6 billion deal have argued that money earmarked for humanitarian purposes nonetheless frees Iran to spend more on its nuclear and ballistic-missile programs and to support regional terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi even said in an interview in September that Iran will spend the money “wherever we need it.”

Kirby said the “fungibility argument” is false, during an interview with Fox News in October.

“It’s not like the Iranians were sitting around and saying, ‘Hmm. Well, we have $6 billion that we can free up to go fund terrorists and not feed our—we don’t have to worry about feeding our people,’” he said. “They were never worried about feeding their people. They were never worried about actual humanitarian assistance to their own population and again, they don’t have any access to it.”

Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House spokeswoman, was asked on Monday during the White House press conference whether U.S. President Joe Biden was considering sanctioning Iranian oil revenues in response to an attack on Sunday, in which Iran-backed proxy forces killed three American soldiers in Jordan.

“I just don’t have anything to share on that particular thing,” Jean-Pierre said. “As the president said himself yesterday, after he acknowledged the three souls that were taken from us, our service members, who bravely protect our national security, and obviously, us as a country, he said that we shall respond.”

“I’m just going to not get ahead of that,” she added.

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