Thursday, September 21, 2023

The backlash to Biden’s Iran deal is fierce

The Biden administration’s deal to bring imprisoned Americans home from Iran has gained its critics and stirred a fight.

The backlash to the agreement — the release of five detained Americans in exchange for several imprisoned Iranians and access to $6 billion in frozen assets for certain humanitarian purposes — comes mainly from conservatives and some members of the Iranian-American community. They start with the argument, made by presidential candidates RON DeSANTIS and MIKE PENCE among others, that the pact is a “ransom payment.”

Opponents contend that giving the ruling clerics a financial lifeline boosts Tehran while it’s weak. KYLIE MOORE-GILBERT, a British-Australian academic held in Iran for more than 800 days, recently said the funds will “incentivize” Tehran to take more Westerners.

Critics also insist Tehran will use much of the $6 billion to conduct terrorist attacks and target U.S. troops in the region. A Trump-style “maximum pressure” campaign would be better suited to bringing Americans home, they argue.

There’s also displeasure at an answer Secretary of State ANTONY BLINKEN gave during a news conference last week. Asked if there were any more wrongfully detained American citizens or residents in Iran, the top diplomat said he was “not aware” of any. Critics noted how at least two permanent residents — SHAHAB DALILI and German citizen JAMSHID SHARMAHD — remain in Iranian custody. But U.S. officials note that neither man has been deemed “wrongfully detained” by the U.S. government.


The administration is pushing back.


VEDANT PATEL, deputy State Department spokesperson, said Monday that U.S. officials have “had the opportunity to speak with the Dalili family.”

National Security Council spokesperson ADRIENNE WATSON told NatSec Daily the $6 billion “isn’t a payment of any kind. These aren’t U.S. dollars. They aren’t taxpayer dollars.” She added: “No one determined to be wrongfully detained in Iran is being ‘left behind.’”

Supporters are weighing in, too, noting U.S. sanctions on Iran have long had exemptions for humanitarian purposes and asserting Washington has worked out the details with South Korea and Qatar — the two countries involved in providing Iran access to the funds…