(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. and Qatar have reached an agreement to prevent Iran from accessing $6 billion recently unfrozen as part of a prisoner swap, the deputy treasury secretary told lawmakers on Thursday, sources confirmed to ABC News.
Deputy Secretary Wally Adeyemo told House Democrats in a closed-door briefing that the money “isn’t going anywhere anytime soon,” sources said.
The agreement comes as the U.S. is scrutinizing Iran’s role in backing Hamas, the terrorist group behind the unprecedented attacks on Israel over the weekend. Though the Biden administration said there’s been no evidence that Iran played a direct role in the assault, the White House has said Iran is complicit given its decades of support for Hamas.
The administration has faced calls from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to re-freeze the funds in the wake of the violent conflict.
The $6 billion in Iranian oil revenue was freed up last month as part of the U.S.-Iranian prisoner swap in which five American citizens were freed. It was made available solely for humanitarian purposes and is under strict U.S. oversight.
The White House on Thursday repeatedly stressed that Iran has not yet tapped this humanitarian fund.
“Every single dime of that money is still sitting in the Qatari bank. … Not one dime of it has been spent,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
But Kirby went to great lengths not to comment publicly on this new understanding to prevent Iran from tapping these funds.
ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Mary Bruce pressed Kirby about whether Iran could access the money if it wanted to.
“What I can tell you is none of it has been accessed and we are watching every dime as you would expect we would,” he responded. “We’re watching it very, very closely. … We have oversight over — over what can be assessed and for what purposes.”
Asked whether he didn’t want to discuss the matter because of concerns that it would imply Iran’s culpability, Kirby again stressed, “All I can tell you is we haven’t seen any specific evidence that Iran was involved specifically with these attacks, but as we’ve said, broadly, yes, they’re certainly complicit.”
Peppered with questions on the funds repeatedly during the press briefing, one reporter finally asked: “On the $6 billion, I’m trying to figure out if you’ re saying that policy hasn’t actually changed in any way or just that you aren’t willing to talk about changes that may have happened in the last 24 hours?”
“Bingo! It’s the last one,” Kirby exclaimed.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who visited Israel on Thursday in a show of support, also stressed the $6 billion fun could only be dispensed for humanitarian goods, medicine, medical equipment, and has “never touched Iranian hands.”
“We have strict oversight of the funds and we retain the right to freeze them,” Blinken said.
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