Politics

A bipartisan group of senators wants a reported deal with Qatar to freeze Iran assets made official

A growing group of bipartisan senators are pressing the State Department to make a refreeze of $6 billion in Iran assets official policy following Hamas’ attack in Israel last weekend.

In a letter addressed to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, led by Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), 14 senators addressed reports that the Biden administration and Qatar quietly reached a deal to pause or potentially refreeze the assets.

Read the full letter.

But these senators are pushing for something more concrete than a private agreement.

“While we understand that there are reports of an agreement with Qatar to freeze $6 billion in Iranian assets, we urge you to make this decision official U.S. policy and continue your efforts to limit Iran’s ability to provide support to Hamas,” the letter reads.

The administration agreed to unfreeze the assets earlier this year as part of a prisoner-swap deal between Iran and the U.S. A condition of unfreezing the $6 billion was for the funds to go toward humanitarian aid only. But as questions emerge on whether Iran assisted Hamas in its attack, some lawmakers want the deal reassessed.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby at a press conference Thursday did not outright confirm reports of a refreeze deal with Qatar, but noted “every single dime of that money is still sitting in the Qatari bank.”

Asked about the reported deal at a press conference Thursday, Blinken said “none of the funds that have now gone to Qatar have actually been spent” but that the U.S. does “retain the right to freeze them” at any time.

Of the eight Democrats who signed the letter, six are up for reelection in vulnerable seats next year, including Rosen and Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Bob Casey (Pa.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Jon Tester (Mont.), in addition to Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.). The two exceptions were Sens. Mark Kelly (Ariz.) and Catherine Cortez Masto (Nev.), who both won reelection last year.

Five Republicans were on the letter, including Sens. Joni Ernst (Iowa), Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Dan Sullivan (Alaska), Todd Young (Ind.) and James Lankford (Okla.).

The Senate is out this week and is slated to return Monday. Members from both parties have said Israel-related issues, including confirming Jack Lew to be ambassador to Israel, should be high on the agenda.

It’s unclear what other aid packages could be sent to Israel from Congress. The House, however, still has no speaker, putting any bicameral efforts at a standstill.

“We look forward to working with you to assist Israel in its time of need and ensure it has the resources and tools needed to defend itself against Iranian-sponsored terrorism,” the letter said.

A growing group of bipartisan senators are pressing the State Department to make a refreeze of $6 billion in Iran assets official policy following Hamas’ attack in Israel last weekend.
In a letter addressed to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, led by Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), 14 senators addressed reports that the Biden administration and Qatar quietly reached a deal to pause or potentially refreeze the assets.
Read the full letter.
But these senators are pushing for something more concrete than a private agreement.
“While we understand that there are reports of an agreement with Qatar to freeze $6 billion in Iranian assets, we urge you to make this decision official U.S. policy and continue your efforts to limit Iran’s ability to provide support to Hamas,” the letter reads.
The administration agreed to unfreeze the assets earlier this year as part of a prisoner-swap deal between Iran and the U.S. A condition of unfreezing the $6 billion was for the funds to go toward humanitarian aid only. But as questions emerge on whether Iran assisted Hamas in its attack, some lawmakers want the deal reassessed.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby at a press conference Thursday did not outright confirm reports of a refreeze deal with Qatar, but noted “every single dime of that money is still sitting in the Qatari bank.”
Asked about the reported deal at a press conference Thursday, Blinken said “none of the funds that have now gone to Qatar have actually been spent” but that the U.S. does “retain the right to freeze them” at any time.
Of the eight Democrats who signed the letter, six are up for reelection in vulnerable seats next year, including Rosen and Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Bob Casey (Pa.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Jon Tester (Mont.), in addition to Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.). The two exceptions were Sens. Mark Kelly (Ariz.) and Catherine Cortez Masto (Nev.), who both won reelection last year.
Five Republicans were on the letter, including Sens. Joni Ernst (Iowa), Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Dan Sullivan (Alaska), Todd Young (Ind.) and James Lankford (Okla.).
The Senate is out this week and is slated to return Monday. Members from both parties have said Israel-related issues, including confirming Jack Lew to be ambassador to Israel, should be high on the agenda.
It’s unclear what other aid packages could be sent to Israel from Congress. The House, however, still has no speaker, putting any bicameral efforts at a standstill.
“We look forward to working with you to assist Israel in its time of need and ensure it has the resources and tools needed to defend itself against Iranian-sponsored terrorism,” the letter said.  

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