U.S. and Qatar Reach Accord to Halt Disbursement of Iranian Funds Amid Ongoing Israel-Hamas Conflict

by Madison Thomas
U.S.-Qatar agreement on Iranian funds

A U.S. official announced on Thursday that an understanding has been reached with Qatar to temporarily halt any requests from Tehran to access $6 billion in Iranian assets, recently unfrozen in a prisoner exchange deal last month. The agreement stops short of completely re-freezing these funds within Qatar’s financial institutions.

This development comes in the wake of lethal assaults by Hamas against Israel, along with continued criticism from Republican circles targeting the Biden administration’s recent arrangement with Iran. The agreement had resulted in the release of $6 billion in Iranian funds in exchange for five American detainees. The U.S. official detailing the accord between the United States and Qatar requested anonymity as they were not authorized to speak publicly.

While defending their policy, U.S. authorities emphasized that the unspent Iranian funds are earmarked solely for humanitarian purposes. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, addressing the media in Israel, clarified that the funds “are overseen by the Treasury Department and are only to be used for humanitarian goods—such as food, medication, and medical equipment.”

Although the U.S. has not yet found concrete evidence linking Iran to Hamas’ most significant attack on Israel in decades, it is widely acknowledged that Iran serves as Hamas’ primary financial and military backer. The U.S. intelligence community has thus far not attributed direct blame to Tehran for the attacks.

Amid escalating tensions, the White House revealed that evacuation flights for Americans wishing to exit Israel will commence on Friday. In a significant show of support for Israel, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is scheduled to visit Israel on Friday, immediately following Secretary Blinken’s visit on Thursday. Austin is slated to confer with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant about additional military assistance needed in the ongoing conflict with Hamas.

Speaking from Brussels, Defense Secretary Austin affirmed that the U.S. is “urgently working to supply Israel with the necessary munitions and Iron Dome interceptors.” Meanwhile, the White House confirmed the casualty toll, stating that at least 27 Americans have died in the conflict and 14 more are unaccounted for.

According to U.S. government estimates, between 160,000 and 170,000 Americans are currently in Israel, while another 500 to 600 are in Gaza, for various reasons including humanitarian work and familial visits. The State Department anticipates facilitating the departure of thousands of U.S. citizens from Israel on a weekly basis, influenced by several factors including the overall security landscape and commercial transport availability.

Blinken, during his Israel visit, was accompanied by Steve Gillen, the Deputy Special Representative for Hostage Affairs, who will remain in Israel to aid efforts in freeing hostages. Blinken stated that the U.S. would continue to advocate for secure routes in and out of Gaza for the trapped American civilians.

Israeli defense officials have not yet sanctioned a ground incursion into Gaza but have mobilized over 300,000 reservists in anticipation. Concurrently, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris met on Thursday to discuss safeguarding U.S. communities, including those of Jewish, Arab, and Muslim heritage, in the wake of the Hamas attacks.

In discussions with lawmakers, Biden administration officials have hinted at a supplemental aid package to ascertain Israel’s requirements. Some senior Republicans propose a larger aid package that would also include funding for Ukraine, Taiwan, and border security. The White House intends to send this request to Congress next week.

Legislative affairs staff from the White House are scheduled to brief senators on Friday regarding “ongoing national security needs,” according to an anonymous official.

This report includes contributions from correspondents in Jerusalem and Washington.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about U.S.-Qatar agreement on Iranian funds

What is the main agreement between the U.S. and Qatar regarding Iranian funds?

The United States and Qatar have reached an understanding to temporarily halt any disbursement of $6 billion in Iranian funds that were recently unfrozen. This decision is not a complete re-freezing of the Iranian funds within Qatar’s banking institutions but serves as a temporary measure to halt their accessibility.

Who are the key officials involved in this agreement?

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are the key American officials involved. On the Qatari side, specific officials have not been publicly disclosed. The information regarding the agreement came from an anonymous U.S. official not authorized to speak on the matter.

What is the link between this agreement and the Israel-Hamas conflict?

The agreement comes amid an escalating conflict between Israel and Hamas. While the U.S. has not directly implicated Iran in the recent Hamas attacks on Israel, Iran is acknowledged as the primary financial and military backer of Hamas. The agreement aims to address concerns about Iran’s potential sponsorship of Hamas through these funds.

How is this affecting U.S. citizens in Israel?

The United States is arranging evacuation flights for Americans wishing to leave Israel. The State Department is planning to facilitate the departure of thousands of U.S. citizens from Israel per week, depending on various factors such as security conditions and transportation availability.

What is the nature of the recently unfrozen Iranian funds?

The $6 billion in Iranian funds were recently unfrozen as part of a prisoner swap deal between the United States and Iran. U.S. authorities have emphasized that these funds can only be used for humanitarian purposes, such as food, medicine, and medical equipment.

What is the U.S. administration’s stance on criticism about the Iran deal?

The Biden administration has defended its actions, stating that the unfrozen funds are earmarked solely for humanitarian needs. They have also clarified that the funds are overseen by the Treasury Department and are restricted for use in purchasing humanitarian goods.

Are there plans for further U.S. aid to Israel?

Yes, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has affirmed that the United States is working urgently to provide Israel with necessary munitions and Iron Dome interceptors. Discussions are ongoing about a supplemental aid package to meet Israel’s needs, potentially including funding for other national security concerns like Ukraine and Taiwan.

How many Americans are currently in Israel and Gaza?

According to U.S. government estimates, between 160,000 and 170,000 Americans are currently in Israel for various reasons, including residency, tourism, or other capacities. An estimated 500 to 600 American citizens are in Gaza, primarily for humanitarian work or familial visits.

More about U.S.-Qatar agreement on Iranian funds

  • U.S. Department of State Official Press Release
  • Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs Statement
  • Background on U.S.-Iran Prisoner Swap
  • Latest Updates on Israel-Hamas Conflict
  • U.S. Treasury Department Guidelines on Iranian Funds
  • Congressional Briefings on Supplemental Aid Package
  • U.S. State Department Travel Advisory for Israel and Gaza

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Rachel Foster October 12, 2023 - 10:42 pm

This is a complex web of politics, and human lives are at stake. Can’t afford to get any of this wrong.

Emily Davis October 13, 2023 - 12:59 am

It’s clear that the Iran deal is under a microscope now, especially with the Israel-Hamas situation getting outta hand.

Alex Kim October 13, 2023 - 1:13 am

Evacuating that many Americans won’t be easy. hope the gov has a solid plan in place.

Sarah Williams October 13, 2023 - 2:29 am

So many Americans in Israel right now, hope the evac plans are well-organized. Fingers crossed.

Karen Lee October 13, 2023 - 4:01 am

What’s the hold-up on the supplemental aid package? We should’ve been prepared for this. Just sayin.

John Smith October 13, 2023 - 4:23 am

Interesting to see the US and Qatar collaborate like this. wonder what Iran’s next move is gonna be.

Lucia Martinez October 13, 2023 - 5:09 am

Timing of this agreement tells a lot about geopolitical pressures. Kinda worried about how it might impact talks with Iran.

Mike O'Brien October 13, 2023 - 4:53 pm

Does anyone know what kind of ‘humanitarian needs’ these funds can be used for? The line seems blurry to me.

Robert Johnson October 13, 2023 - 5:58 pm

Blinken says the funds are for humanitarian purposes but can we really trust that? Always a catch somewhere.

William Thompson October 13, 2023 - 6:48 pm

Austin going to Israel right now is huge. Sends a clear message where US stands, but will it be enough?


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