by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
A prisoner swap between the United States and Iran that was criticized when it was announced last month is in for especially harsh scrutiny now.
The Biden administration defended the deal, which involved swapping five prisoners from each side as well as the unfreezing of $6 billion in Iranian assets, when questioned by the Washington Examiner at Tuesday’s White House press briefing.
“The United States does not regret bringing home American citizens who have been unjustly detained abroad,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan told the Washington Examiner. “As I said before, the president has no higher priority than to get Americans home.”
Iran-backed Hamas on Saturday targeted Israel, leaving an estimated 1,000 Israelis dead and 3,400 injured. At least 14 Americans have been killed as well. Palestinian authorities say 830 people have been killed in Gaza and the West Bank since Israel’s retaliatory airstrikes, with the combined death toll topping 1,800.
Sullivan and other administration officials have repeatedly stressed that none of the money has been spent without commenting directly on whether they will consider refreezing it.
“Not a single dollar from that account has actually been spent to date.” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday. “Iran has unfortunately always used and focused its funds on supporting terrorism, on supporting groups like Hamas, and it’s done that when there have been sanctions.”
That’s not flying with congressional Republicans. House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-KY) called for an investigation into what he describes as a ransom payment.
“From the Biden administration’s disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal to its $6 billion ransom payment to Iran, President Biden’s policies have led to turmoil in the region,” Comer said. “Congress has a duty to hold the Biden administration accountable for its disastrous foreign policies and to conduct oversight of U.S. taxpayer dollars used for foreign aid.”