In a significant development, the United States has confirmed that Iran’s access to $6 billion held in a Qatari bank, part of a prisoner exchange, will remain restricted. This decision comes in the aftermath of an attack by Iran-backed Palestinian Hamas militants on Israel, resulting in over 1,300 casualties and the abduction of hostages into the Palestinian Gaza Strip.
A senior U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, revealed that Iran’s access to the funds would not be possible in the foreseeable future. “Iran will not be able to access the funds for the foreseeable future,” the official stated.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, during a press conference in Tel Aviv, emphasized that Iran has not utilized any of the $6 billion, and stringent oversight ensures that these funds are designated for humanitarian purposes. “We have strict oversight of the funds, and we retain the right to freeze them,” Blinken stated.
The United States and Qatar have reportedly reached an agreement to prevent Iran from accessing these funds. While Iran openly supports Hamas by providing funding and weaponry, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stated on Tuesday that Tehran had no involvement in the Hamas attack on Israel.
The Iranian mission at the United Nations reaffirmed the U.S.’ commitment to the agreement governing these funds, which were transferred to Qatar from a South Korean account to address Iranian humanitarian requirements. These Iranian oil revenues had been previously frozen in Seoul following a complete ban on Iran’s oil exports and sanctions on its banks imposed by the Trump administration in 2019.
Iran’s mission to the United Nations in New York stressed that “the money rightfully belongs to the people of Iran, earmarked for the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to facilitate the acquisition of all essential and non-sanctioned requisites for the Iranians.”
This development highlights the complex and multifaceted diplomatic and financial challenges faced by the United States and its allies in the Middle East, particularly in the wake of regional conflicts and the involvement of Iran in supporting militant groups. The decision to restrict Iran’s access to these funds underscores the significance of humanitarian oversight and the U.S.’s commitment to ensuring that the funds are used for legitimate purposes.