The US House of Representatives has passed a bipartisan measure to block Iran from ever accessing the $6 billion recently unfrozen by the US in a prisoner swap, a step Republicans pushed in response to the nation’s alleged role in the deadly attacks last month by Hamas on Israel.
The measure — titled the No Funds for Iranian Terrorism Act — passes 307-119 as Republicans sought to hold the Biden administration accountable for what they call their complicity in funding Iranian-backed terrorism in the Middle East.
The US and Iran reached the tentative agreement in August that eventually saw the release of five detained Americans in Tehran and an unknown number of Iranians imprisoned in the U.S. after billions of dollars in frozen Iranian assets were transferred from banks in South Korea to Qatar. But days after the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, the U.S. and Qatar agreed that Iran would not be able to access the money in the meantime, with officials stopping short of a full refreezing of the funds.
Republican critics say that despite the money being restricted to aid, it is fungible, and could free up other funds for Tehran to provide support to Hamas like they believe it did before it attacked Israel in early October.
The GOP-backed resolution, which now goes to the Senate where it is unlikely to be supported by the Democratic majority, would impose new sanctions on the funds to prevent the transfer of any monies to Iran. It also threatens to sanction any government or individual involved in processing the transfer of the funds.
Several Democrats who opposed the measure defended the Biden administration’s decision to transfer the money in exchange for American hostages, especially in light of the American hostages now being kept by Hamas in Gaza.
“Iran, of course, as Hamas, is a murderous and corrupt regime. They’re not pleasant. And this isn’t easy,” Rep. Gregory Meeks, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, says during the floor debate. “But thanks to this agreement, five American families are now home again.”