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14 senators demand 'official policy' freeze of $6B in Iranian funds

More than a dozen senators led by Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) are calling on the Biden administration to refreeze $6 billion in Iranian funds as the “official policy” of the U.S. so it will be harder to change the status of the assets at a later date.

A Treasury Department official told House Democrats Thursday that the administration will block Iran’s access to the $6 billion, which is now being held in Qatar. But a bipartisan group of senators want additional barriers to the money. 

“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 14 senators wrote in a Thursday letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The signatories included several Democrats facing tough reelection races next year, including Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Bob Casey (Pa.), Jon Tester (Mont.) and Sherrod Brown (Ohio). 

Rosen faces a competitive reelection race in Nevada, which Senate Republicans made a top target in 2022.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I), who faces a tough reelection in Arizona if she opts to run for another Senate term, also signed the letter.

The senators noted the U.S. has designated Iran a state sponsor of terrorism since 1984, and Tehran has provided support to Hamas and other groups that have carried out attacks against Israel as well as U.S. personnel and military service members.

The senators pointed out the State Department determined in 2021 that Hamas had received weapons systems and other direct support from Iran and that in 2022, Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas, stated the group had received $70 million in assistance from Iran that year. 

“While the U.S. intelligence community continues to assess Iran’s role in the October 7 terrorist attacks, it is clear that Iran’s support for Hamas has sustained the terrorist group, ensuring that Hamas had the means to carry out their abhorrent attack on Israel,” the senators wrote.  

“We therefore strongly urge you to make it official U.S. policy to freeze the $6 billion in Iranian assets currently held in Qatar, and continue to hold Iran accountable for its violent and destabilizing actions, including direct support of Hamas,” they added. 

The other Democrats who signed the letter were Sens. Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Mark Kelly (Ariz.) and Catherine Cortez Masto (Nev.). 

The Republican signatories included Sens. Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), James Lankford (Okla.), Dan Sullivan (Alaska) and Todd Young (Ind.). 

Source: The Hill

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