Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) on Monday led Senate Republican critics in panning the Biden administration’s decision to release $6 billion in frozen Iranian funds in exchange for the release of five American detainees, calling the move “shameful.”
Cotton and other GOP senators reacted to news that the Biden administration issued a blanket waiver for international banks to transfer $6 billion in frozen Iranian money to facilitate the release of five Americans held by Iran.
“First Joe Biden used 9/11 as an excuse to flee Afghanistan. Now he desecrates this day by paying ransom to the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism. Shameful,” Cotton said in a statement.
Other Republican lawmakers warned that rewarding Iran would only set the stage for future detentions of Americans traveling abroad.
“If we’re paying a billion dollars per kidnapped individual, then you’re going to see more kidnappings. That’s why you don’t negotiate with terrorists, that’s why you don’t negotiate with kidnappers. The idea of basically paying to release, in this effect, a hostage is a terrible idea,” said Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah).
“Remember back in the Reagan years, we had — was it — guns for hostages, that was the story, remember that? This is a billion dollars for a hostage,” Romney said.
The administration announced Monday that it would also release five Iranian prisoners.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) slammed the prisoner exchange on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
“It’s ridiculous for US to be blackmailed into paying $6B for hostages which will help indirectly finance the number 1 foreign policy of Iran: terrorism Last time it was $1.7B traded for hostages next time it will probably be $10B the price keeps going up & up,” he wrote.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said “all that does is encourage more kidnapping.”
“As sympathetic as we all are in having hostages released, it’s a short-term gain for exacerbating a long-term problem,” he said.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week issued the sanction waiver to allow the frozen Iranian funds to move from South Korea to Qatar, which Iran could then use to buy food and medicine.
Republicans criticized the deal last month when House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) warned that the money could be used to “prop up” Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism.
“I want to get these Americans home more than anybody,” McCaul said. “But we have to go in [with] eyes wide open. [The] $6 billion that now is going to go into Iran [will] prop up their proxy war, terror operations and their nuclear bomb aspirations,” he told “Fox News Sunday.”
Adrienne Watson, the White House National Security spokesperson, said Blinken “undertook a procedural step in an ongoing process to ensure Iranian funds can move from one restricted account to another and remain restricted to humanitarian trade.”
She noted the deal will secure the release of five “wrongfully held Americans” and “remains a sensitive and ongoing process.”
“We have kept Congress extensively informed from the outset of this process — long before today — and we will continue to do so,” she said, adding that officials will hold briefings with lawmakers this week.
A senior administration official emphasized that Iran won’t receive money directly and the deal won’t involve any taxpayer funds.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is running in second place in the GOP presidential primary, accused the administration of “caving to Iran’s blackmail and extortion.”
He warned in a post on X that “Biden must stop obsessively pursuing disastrous deals that endanger our security.”
Updated at 10:23 pm.
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