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US, Qatar Agree Not to Release Unfrozen Iranian Funds

October 13, 2023
2 min read
US, Qatar Agree Not to Release Unfrozen Iranian Funds

The United States and Qatar have agreed not to release any of the $6 billion in Iranian oil revenues that was unfrozen as part of a prisoner swap last month, Western media outlets reported.

The question of Iranian access to the funds has been in the spotlight since the Palestinian militant group Hamas launched a surprise weekend attack on Israel, killing more than 1,300 people and taking scores of hostages to the Gaza Strip.

Iran has long supported Hamas with material, financial and logistical support, but to date, no evidence has been found to link the attack to Tehran, US administration officials have said since the Hamas assault began. 

In a closed-door meeting with House Democrats on October 13, Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said that Washington reached a "quiet understanding" with Qatar not to release any of the $6 billion in Iranian oil revenues, a source with knowledge of the arrangement told CBS News.

Reuters quoted a senior US official as saying that Iran “will not be able to access the funds for the foreseeable future.”

As part of a deal to release five Americans who had been wrongfully detained in Iran, the Biden administration included the transfer of the Iranian oil assets from a restricted account in South Korea to Qatar.

Washington has said that the money would not be given directly to Iran and that it could only be used to fund the country’s purchases of humanitarian goods.

The Iranian oil money had been frozen in Seoul after Washington placed a total ban on Iran’s oil exports and sanctioned its banks in 2019.

Speaking during a press conference in Tel Aviv, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Tehran had neither accessed nor spent any of the $6 billion, adding: “We have strict oversight of the funds and we retain the right to freeze them.”

The Iranian mission to the United Nations in New York said the US government was “acutely aware that they cannot renege” on the deal reached over the money.

“The money rightfully belongs to the people of Iran, earmarked for the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to facilitate the acquisition of all essential and non-sanctioned requisites for the Iranians,” it said.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said the money was intended to be disbursed “to approved vendors – that we approved – to go buy food, medicine and medical equipment, agricultural products, and ship it into Iran directly to the benefit of the Iranian people.”

“Every single dime of that money is still sitting in the Qatari bank,” Kirby told reporters, adding: “The regime was never going to see a dime of that money.”

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