Republican Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs was “incredulous” after a witness told him that Iran would use a $6 billion transfer for humanitarian purposes, during a congressional hearing on Wednesday.
The Biden administration recently struck a deal to release $6 billion in previously frozen assets to Iran in exchange for five American prisoners, and despite previous assurances from the White House, Iran says they have the “authority” to use the funds however they see fit. When Biggs asked if anyone on the panel believed that Iran would use the funds for humanitarian aid regardless, one of the witnesses who had been defending the Biden administration’s deal said yes, during the House Oversight subcommittee hearing.
“Is there anybody that believes the $6 billion is going to be used for humanitarian purposes?” Biggs asked.
“Yes,” answered Barbara Slavin, a distinguished fellow from the Stimson Center, a foreign affairs think tank.
“Ok, I’ve got a bridge to sell you,” Biggs joked. “[Iran] has said we’re going to use it anyway [they] want to. That’s why I’m incredulous that anyone would believe it would all go to humanitarian purposes.”
“Anyway, I want to know: is this the first time we’ve paid Iran in exchange for hostages?” Biggs asked, turning his attention to the other witnesses.
Two other witnesses on the panel began to explain that the Obama administration struck a similar deal with Iran, before they were abruptly interrupted by Slavin. “Excuse me, congressman, this is Iran’s oil revenues,” Slavin began. “The United States does not paying–””I don’t have a question for you, Ms. Slavin,” Biggs chided, before turning his attention back to the other witnesses.
The Biden administration has fallen under scrutiny for similar hostage exchange deals, such as trading Viktor Bout, known as the “Merchant of Death,” to Russia in exchange for WNBA star Brittney Griner, who had been imprisoned in the country for possessing marijuana in 2022. The Biden administration chose to trade for Griner as opposed to Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who has been detained in Russia for four years on espionage charges.
Foreign policy experts and lawmakers have criticized the Biden administration’s exchange deal as a “ransom” payment and said that it is unlikely to convince Iran to make concessions in other areas. They also warned that it may embolden Iran to act even more aggressively toward the U.S. and take more American hostages in the hopes of another payout.
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