The US and Qatar block Iran's access to a $6 billion fund | International

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Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State, during a press conference in Tel Aviv, this Thursday.POOL (via REUTERS)

The United States has reached a behind-the-scenes agreement with Qatar to block Iran's access to the account with $6 billion for humanitarian purposes that Tehran has in banks in the emirate, while the conflict in the Middle East worsens after the attack Hamas against Israel. That fund had been made available in September to the Islamic regime, the great supporter of Hamas, as part of a prisoner exchange agreement between Washington and Tehran.

The Undersecretary of the Treasury, Wally Ademo, has informed the Democratic legislators in the House of Representatives in a closed-door meeting, according to what participants in the meeting have told US media. The US Government has not officially confirmed the measure, although in Jerusalem, where he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Secretary of State Blinken recalled in a press conference that “we maintain supervision of that account and the right to freeze it.” Blinken, who arrived in Israel on Wednesday, also plans to visit Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.

Those $6 billion, from Iranian oil revenues, remained frozen in South Korean bank accounts. The agreement closed in September after two-year negotiations, by which five American citizens held in Iranian prisons returned to their country, allowed their transfer to the account in Qatar. There, Tehran could use those funds to purchase food, agricultural products, medicine and other humanitarian goods.

Washington revealed this Thursday that Iran has not used that account since then. “Not a single cent has moved,” stressed the spokesman for the National Security Council, John Kirby, at a press conference at the White House. Kirby pointed out that in no case would this money pass through Iranian hands. “Only suppliers of humanitarian products approved by us would receive it, who would directly ship those goods to Iran for the benefit of the Iranian people.”

Republican opposition legislators have criticized the US government for allowing Iranian access to these funds, and accuse the White House of a permissive attitude towards the country that sponsors Hamas and other radical Islamic groups in the Middle East. In turn, the Biden Administration recalls that opening the humanitarian account in Qatar for Iran was a decision by the previous government of Donald Trump.

Since the crisis broke out last Saturday, when Hamas launched the largest attack against Israel in half a century by surprise from Gaza, Washington has decisively sided with the Netanyahu government, to which it has promised “everything it needs” to defend itself. But it has also established as one of its priorities to prevent the conflict from spreading beyond the borders of Gaza and Israel. He fears, in particular, that Tehran could take advantage of the troubled waters for its own benefit in the region.

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So far, he emphasizes, he does not have “specific indications” that suggest that Iran could be behind Hamas' actions. A report from his intelligence services indicates that Tehran received the first news about the Islamic group's assault on Israeli populations with surprise. But at the same time he insists that the ayatollah regime is “complicit” with Hamas, which he supports with training, shipment of weapons, transfer of technology and provision of funds.

The United States has sent its largest aircraft carrier, the Gerald Ford to the eastern Mediterranean and a second, the Eisenhoweris on the way, in a deterrent gesture. On Wednesday, in a meeting with representatives of American Jewish communities, Biden for the first time explicitly linked the presence of these ships to a specific warning to Iran. “We have moved a fleet of aircraft carriers and sent more fighter planes to that region, and we have made it clear to the Iranians: be careful,” declared the White House tenant.

Washington, which is negotiating the opening of a humanitarian corridor between Gaza and Egypt, also announced this Thursday that the number of American victims in the Hamas attacks has already risen to 27 people, while another fourteen of this nationality remain missing. The extremist militia also holds “a handful” of Americans among the hostages it captured in its assault, the White House has acknowledged. The State Department has indicated, for its part, that it will charter charter flights to allow its citizens who wish to be repatriated from Israel and the Palestinian territories.

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