Senate Republicans McConnell, Cotton introduce bill to freeze $6B in Iranian funds

1 of 2 | Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., introduced a bill Wednesday with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to immediately freeze $6 billion in Iranian funds following Hamas attacks on Israel, calling Iran “the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism.” File Photo by Jemal Countess/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 11 (UPI) — In the wake of recent Hamas attacks on Israel, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., introduced a new bill Wednesday to immediately freeze $6 billion in Iranian funds.

The funds currently are being held in South Korea and are due to be released to Iran following a prisoner swap with the United States.

The two-page bill reinstates certain sanctions on Iran and prohibits the “Waiver of Sanctions with Respect to the Transfer of Funds from the Republic of Korea to Qatar,” which was transmitted to Congress on Sept. 11.

“The path of resources, training, and lethal weapons from Tehran to terrorists throughout the Middle East is crystal clear. On Saturday, it enabled cold-blooded killers like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad to perpetrate the deadliest day of violence against Jews in decades,” McConnell wrote in a statement Wednesday.

The bill, which is now getting strong bipartisan support, comes two days after former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., called on President Joe Biden to refreeze the funds, saying “Biden’s policy on appeasement, including money for hostage deals, must come to an end.”

McConnell and Cotton said they will seek unanimous consent to pass the bill with Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, among the Democrats supporting it.

“As we work to hold anyone who supports terrorism accountable, the administration must freeze the $6 billion in Iranian assets,” Brown said, while calling for an investigation into the financing behind Hamas’s attacks.

Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and John Tester, D-Mont., have also called for freezing Iranian funds.

“At a minimum, we should immediately freeze the $6 billion in Iranian assets and explore other financial tools we have at our disposal,” Tester said.

Last month, five U.S. citizens who had been wrongly detained in Iran were released in exchange for $6 billion in frozen oil revenue to Iran. The funds are currently being held in South Korea and “have not been touched,” according to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. While the agreement called for Iran to spend the funds on humanitarian causes, including food and medicine, critics argued the United States had no way to police Iran’s expenditures.

On Saturday, Hamas militants killed 260 people at a music festival and took an unknown number of hostages. Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, also launched an assault on Israeli military positions and other civilian areas.

More than 1,200 Israelis have been killed, while Palestinian officials say more than 1,100 died in retaliatory attacks on Gaza. On Wednesday, the American death toll rose to 22 with 17 citizens unaccounted for, according to the White House.

“Iran is the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism. In addition to funding Hamas’s devastating terrorist attacks against Israel, the regime’s proxies have attacked dozens of American targets in the region in recent years,” Cotton said in a statement Wednesday.

“The Biden administration’s decision to let Iran access the $6 billion immediately freed up other money for the regime to fund its attacks in Israel. The Biden administration should immediately re-freeze the funds,” Cotton argued, as McConnell called for more sanctions.

“The civilized world must re-impose serious consequences on the regime that aids and abets murderous evil against innocent Israelis. The United States must lead that effort by our example, and freezing Iranian assets is an important first step.”

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