Joe Biden is getting blasted for paying a "ransom" to Iran after agreeing to unfreeze $6 billion in Iranian assets in exchange for the release of five American prisoners.
Republicans are calling it yet another example of Biden's weakness on the world stage - and a continuation of the policy of appeasement pursued by his former boss Barack Obama.
The timing of the trade was also scrutinized, as it was announced on the 22nd anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks.
Biden also agreed to release five Iranians held in the U.S.
The arrangement provides international banks the assurance that they won't violate sanctions on Iran's economy by transferring $6 billion from South Korea to Qatar, which is an Iranian ally.
“To facilitate their release, the United States has committed to release five Iranian nationals currently held in the United States and to permit the transfer of approximately $6 billion in restricted Iranian funds held in (South Korea) to restricted accounts in Qatar, where the funds will be available only for humanitarian trade,” State Secretary Tony Blinken said.
Foreign policy hawks say Biden is simply emboldening rogue regimes to kidnap Americans.
Republican critics pointed to the exorbitant "price" per prisoner - approximately $1 billion per head.
“If we’re paying a billion dollars per kidnapped individual, then you’re going to see more kidnappings. That’s why you don’t negotiate with terrorists, that’s why you don’t negotiate with kidnappers," said Senator Mitt Romney (R-Ut.).
President Biden can’t seem to cut his habit of sending money to terrorists. First, it was $400 million to Iran in 2016 when he was VP. Now, it’s $6 billion to Iran on 22nd anniversary of 9/11. This President is putting a price on American lives. Enough is enough. https://t.co/TILtwBUEnT
— Tim Scott (@SenatorTimScott) September 12, 2023
The administration insists the money can only be used for humanitarian purposes.
But the president of Iran says the money "belongs to the Iranian people, the Iranian government, so the Islamic Republic of Iran will decide what to do with this money," raising questions about how the money will be used.
European banks hesitated to get involved in the transfer, so the U.S. offered a blanket sanctions waiver to put them at ease.
“What is being pursued here is an arrangement wherein we secure the release of 5 wrongfully held Americans,” said Adrienne Watson, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council. “This remains a sensitive and ongoing process. While this is a step in the process, no individuals have been or will be released into U.S. custody this week.”
President Obama was also criticized for unfreezing Iranian assets as he pursued the controversial Iran nuclear deal.
The Biden administration has attempted to salvage the deal, a linchpin of Obama's foreign policy that unraveled during the Trump presidency.
In December, Biden released notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for the release of women's basketball player and outspoken Black Lives Matter activist Brittney Griner, who was arrested in Moscow for smuggling marijuana.