Associated Press diplomatic writer Matt Lee grilled State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller on Tuesday over the Biden administration’s latest deal with Iran. In a move that has Republican hawks up in arms, Secretary of State Antony Blinken approved a $6 billion fund transfer in exchange for the release of five American hostages.
Miller defended the deal by claiming the money is Iranian, “spun down” from accounts they had access to even during Trump’s presidency. Further, Miller insisted that restrictions were in place to ensure the funds would only be used for humanitarian purposes. To anyone skeptical of Iran’s benevolence, the situation warrants a hard look.
Q: What if you find out Iran is using the $6 billion to fund Russia's war in Ukraine and/or other terrorism?
Biden State Department spokesman Matthew Miller: "I don't wanna try to get into hypotheticals because we know that we got our ass handed to us because Biden… https://t.co/FpYywLqqGF
— 𝕏 Horton 𝕏 (@is_horton) September 12, 2023
NEWS: State Department spokesman Matthew Miller on the $6 billion released to Iran by the Biden administration: "No one has given Iran a dollar here!" pic.twitter.com/ZcqCB5POe4
— LWNC (@LwncNews) September 12, 2023
Unimpressed by the White House’s semantic gymnastics, Lee didn’t let Miller off easily. He accused the administration of being “disingenuous to the extreme” by emphasizing that U.S. taxpayer money was not involved. Miller defended his stance, suggesting that elected officials posted on the X platform, formerly known as Twitter, often mischaracterize the funds as being from the United States. Lee said, “Yeah, but you’re making it easier for them to get it.”
So we get 5 prisoners. Iran gets $6 billion.
Oh, plus Iran also gets five prisoners. 👌
— Rep. Ralph Norman (@RepRalphNorman) September 12, 2023
And here’s the crux: While technically the money belongs to Iran, the Biden administration’s decision to unfreeze these funds makes it easier for the Iranian government to access this money. Lee rightly argued that the Biden administration’s continued focus on this being Iran’s money sets up a “straw man argument.”
Let’s not forget the timing. The deal coincided with the 22nd anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) pointed out the unsettling optics: “Biden just gave $6 billion to Iran — and on 9/11.” Meanwhile, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) commented that the deal “incentivizes Iran’s terrorist activities and endangers the lives of even more of our citizens.”
State Department spokesman Matthew Miller says the Xiden administration's $6 billion giveaway to Iran — the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism — in a prisoner swap on the anniversary of 9/11 wasn't a "ransom" pic.twitter.com/IT8JEiNcfW
— 🇺🇸⭐️OUR-VOICES⭐️🇺🇸 (@iswho) September 12, 2023
The administration counters that they had to make “tough choices” and engage in “tough negotiations” to bring the Americans home. However, it’s worth noting that Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi declared Iran will spend the $6 billion “wherever” it wants. Who are we to believe? The U.S. State Department, which claims the money is restricted to humanitarian uses, or Iran’s president?
The skepticism isn’t unwarranted. The U.S. has a checkered history with hostage deals with Iran. The Obama administration sent $400 million to Iran for the release of four hostages on the day the Iranian Nuclear Deal was implemented. Fast forward to today, and the Biden administration seems to be walking the same dangerous path.
The Biden administration’s decision to release $6 billion to Iran raises pertinent questions about its foreign policy choices. The administration may argue that these are Iran’s funds and that strict restrictions will be applied, but how much faith can we place in such assurances? The issue, far from being a partisan dispute, is national security and international credibility.
Matt Lee’s questioning exposes that while the administration may frame it as a tough but necessary choice, the deal potentially empowers an already belligerent Iran.