U.S., Qatar agree not to release $6 billion to Iran

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The United States and Qatar have reached an understanding not to allow Iran to access the $6 billion funds reserved for humanitarian assistance.

U.S. Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo told Democrats behind closed doors on Thursday that the U.S. and Qatar had reached a “quiet understanding” not to move the money, which is being held in a Qatari bank, a person familiar with his comments told Semafor. The news comes as U.S. officials probe whether Iran was directly involved in the Hamas attack on Israel over the weekend.

Adeyemo told the lawmakers the funds would not be moving anytime soon, the person said.

The Biden administration has withstood growing pressure from lawmakers in both parties to “refreeze” the money, which Iran was given access to as part of a prisoner swap deal between Washington and Tehran in recent weeks.

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Biden administration officials have said they do not have evidence of Iran’s direct involvement in the attack over the weekend while acknowledging that Iran has long supported Hamas, which is designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the European Union.

Republicans have accused the administration of emboldening Iran with the prisoner swap deal, arguing that the money ultimately helps Iran and its proxies in the region. The administration has stressed that none of the $6 billion has been accessed by Iran and that it is reserved for humanitarian purposes, dismissing efforts to link the $6 billion to Hamas’s attack on Israel as “disinformation.”

Still, a number of Senate Democrats facing difficult reelection battles in 2024 joined their Republican colleagues in demanding the $6 billion be frozen.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark. announced Wednesday that they would seek “unanimous consent” to pass legislation that would block Iran from accessing the funds when the upper chamber reconvenes next week.