Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi declared that Tehran will deploy the $6 billion in funds the United States recently moved to unfreeze “where we need it.”
On Monday, the United States announced it had issued a blank sanctions waiver on $6 billion in frozen Iranian assets as part of a broader deal to secure the release of five American detainees.
“This money belongs to the Iranian people, to the Iranian government, so the Islamic Republic of Iran will decide what to do with this money,” Raisi told NBC.
A chorus of Republican critics criticized the deal, suggesting that Iran could find a way to use the unfrozen funds for nefarious purposes.
“I remain deeply concerned that the administration’s decision to waive sanctions to facilitate the transfer of $6 billion in funds to Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, creates a direct incentive for U.S. adversaries to United States to carry out future hostage takings,” the Chamber of Foreign Affairs said. Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Tx.) said in a statement.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi warned that Tehran plans to spend the $6 billion unfrozen in the prisoner exchange deal however it wants. Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
“The administration is demonstrating a weakness that only further endangers Americans and freedom-loving people around the world.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who signed the sanctions waiver last week to clear the way for the deal, stressed that the funds could only be used for humanitarian purposes.
“To facilitate their release, the United States has committed to releasing five Iranian nationals currently detained in the United States and to permit the transfer of approximately $6 billion in restricted Iranian funds held in (South Korea) to restricted accounts in Qatar, where funds will be available only for humanitarian trade,” Blinken said.
Antony Blinken took formal steps to unfreeze the $6 billion last week.AP
President Biden has publicly indicated that he wants to revive the defunct nuclear deal with Iran.NHAC NGUYEN/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Raisi was somewhat coy when asked if the funds would be used for anything other than humanitarian needs.
“Humanitarian means whatever the Iranian people need, so this money will be budgeted for those needs and the needs of the Iranian people will be decided and determined by the Iranian government,” he told the television network.
The $6 billion in question came from oil sales revenue and had been withheld in South Korea in compliance with US sanctions.
As part of the broader deal, the United States will receive five American citizens detained in Iran and return five Iranians detained in the United States to Tehran.
Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi and Morad Tahbaz are among the American prisoners expected to be released. family brochure
The deal was first announced on August 10 and the Biden administration briefed Congress on Monday about the sanctions waiver.
Notably, the announced sanctions waiver coincided with the 22nd anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack, something Republican Party critics lamented.
Raisi assured NBC News’ Lester Holt that the five American detainees were in good condition.
The Biden administration is rumored to be seeking to revive elements of the now-defunct Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action JCPOA, also known as the Iran nuclear deal.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, is the highest authority in Tehran. Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
That deal was negotiated during the Obama administration and provided sanctions relief in exchange for Iran imposing temporary limits on its nuclear program.
Then-President Donald Trump unilaterally opposed the deal and reimposed sanctions in 2018.