In a heated exchange, Matt Lee, Associated Press (AP) diplomatic reporter, and State Department spokesman Matthew Miller clashed over the use of unfrozen funds by Iran to support the terror group Hamas, which had carried out a devastating attack, claiming the lives of over 1,000 Israelis over a weekend.
The Biden administration had negotiated a deal to transfer $6 billion in Iranian assets previously frozen and secure the release of several Iranian nationals in exchange for five Americans held hostage in Iran.
A Wall Street Journal report, citing senior members of Hamas and Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, alleged that Iran had aided Hamas in planning the attack on Israel weeks in advance and had given the green light for the terrorist organization’s assault the previous week.
Lee pressed the State Department, arguing that while they claimed specific funds with identifiable serial numbers could not be used for terrorism, releasing these funds allowed Iran to divert resources within its borders for other purposes, potentially supporting malign activities.
Miller countered by pointing out that allowing Iranian funds to accumulate started during the Trump administration, and the U.S. had consistently taken actions to hold Iran accountable for funding terrorism.
Lee interjected, emphasizing that the criticism was centered on freeing funds inside Iran that could be redirected for harmful purposes. Miller responded that there was no evidence supporting this claim.
Lee challenged Miller further, asking if there was evidence to confirm that Iran hadn’t used the money since its arrival in Qatar to support Hamas. Miller acknowledged Iran’s history of funding terrorism before and after these accounts were established and expressed the intention to hold Iran accountable.
He maintained that the allocated funds were strictly earmarked for humanitarian purposes, with stringent oversight and visibility. Any misuse, he assured, would result in immediate action to shut it down.
Speaking on Fox News, White House national security spokesperson John Kirby stated that the $6 billion was being reallocated in small increments and couldn’t be used to fund Hamas.
However, Fox News host Bret Baier countered, suggesting that Iran already possessed several billion dollars from its oil exports, which could be used for such purposes. Kirby emphasized the Biden administration’s ongoing review of Iranian policy.