The White House maintained Thursday that Iran has not accessed any of the $6 billion in funds transferred to a Qatari account as part of a recent prisoner swap with Tehran amid multiple reports that the U.S. and Qatar are discussing blocking Iran from accessing the funds moving forward.
John Kirby, a White House spokesperson on national security issues, told reporters the entirety of the $6 billion is still in a Qatari bank after it was transferred from South Korea as part of a prisoner swap that freed five Americans. Talks of “refreezing” the funds have bubbled up since the devastating attacks on Israel by Hamas, a militant group long known to be backed by the Iranian regime.
“I’m not going to talk about diplomatic conversations one way or another,” Kirby said. “What I can tell you is every single dime of that money is sitting in the Qatari bank. Not one dime of it has been spent.”
Kirby later told reporters he wasn’t going to discuss changes that may have happened involving the funds in the last 24 hours.
“I’m not going to speculate one way or another here about future transactions,” he said. “What I can tell you is none of it has been accessed, and we are watching every dime.”
His remarks came soon after multiple news outlets reported that Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo told House Democrats that Iran would no longer have access to the funds.
The administration had faced pressure from Republicans and Democrats alike on Capitol Hill to cut off access to the money in the wake of terrorist attacks against Israel.
White House officials have so far said there is no evidence Iran was involved in planning or carrying out the attacks, which have left more than 1,000 Israelis and more than two dozen Americans dead. But they have stressed that Iran is broadly complicit because of its years of support for Hamas.
Kirby emphasized that the $6 billion in funding was never going to be available to the Iranian regime and that it was subject to strict oversight.
“None of it has been accessed by Iran at all, and even if they had accessed it, it wouldn’t go to the regime,” Kirby said. “It would go to approved vendors that we approved to go buy food, medicine, medical equipment, agricultural products and ship it into Iran directly to the benefit of the Iranian people.”
The $6 billion that was unfrozen as part of the prisoner swap was already the subject of intense scrutiny from Republicans in particular, even prior to the Hamas attacks, with GOP lawmakers and presidential candidates equating it to a ransom payment that would embolden Iran.
The White House has been adamant that the money was not a ransom payment, noting that it did not come at the expense of U.S. taxpayers and that the money was from South Korean oil purchases to Iran under an agreement established during the Trump administration.