NASHVILLE, TENN. – Two prominent south Republican senators, Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.) and Tim Scott (S.C.) led their GOP colleagues in a letter demanding answers from President Joe Biden's administration that demanded answers regarding an approximately $6 billion exchange with Iran in for American prisoners.
Below is a transcript of the letter:
Dear Secretaries Blinken and Yellen: We write to express significant concern over the administration’s decision to release approximately $6 billion in frozen assets to the Islamic Republic of Iran in exchange for the release of five American detainees. While we firmly believe the United States must use every appropriate resource to secure the release of American citizens wrongfully detained overseas, this decision will reinforce an incredibly dangerous precedent and will enable the Iranian regime to increase its destabilizing activities across the Middle East.
When the Obama administration released $400 million in liquidated assets to Iran in 2016, we warned that this dangerous precedent would put a price on American lives. Seven years later, the current administration is providing a ransom payment worth at least fifteen times that amount to the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, in yet another violation of the United States’ long-standing “no concessions” policy. In the release of Executive Order 14078 on July 19, 2022, the White House admitted that “terrorist organizations, criminal groups, and other malicious actors who take hostages for financial, political, or other gain—as well as foreign states that engage in the practice of wrongful detention, including for political leverage or to seek concessions from the United States—threaten the integrity of the international political system and the safety of United States nationals and other persons abroad.” The release of such a significant sum to the Iranian regime runs entirely counter to that claim and will only serve to encourage additional hostage taking for financial or political gain.
We are also worried that your administration is attempting to sidestep Congress and pursue other pathways to financially compensate Iran in an attempt to renegotiate a successor to the ill-fated 2015 nuclear deal. Any agreement with the Iranian regime that entails financial reward for malign behavior is wholly unacceptable.
Given the risk this agreement poses to the safety of American citizens overseas and broader United States national security interests, we request an in-person briefing, as well as written responses to the following questions, within 30 days:
- The Iranian assets to be released were initially frozen at South Korean financial institutions in support of existing U.S. sanctions policy. Does the release of the funds violate that policy? Will the President issue a waiver and required report to Congress consistent with Section 1245 of the FY2012 National Defense Authorization Act?
- Financial assets are fungible. How can your departments guarantee that the funds will only be used for humanitarian purposes and will not free up additional resources that the Iranian regime can use to support terrorist networks and weapons proliferation, or increase its nuclear enrichment activities?
Joining Senators Blackburn and Scott were Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Katie Britt (R-Ala.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Ted Budd (R-N.C.), J.D. Vance (R-Ohio), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Pete Ricketts (R-Neb.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Roger Marshall (R-Kansas), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), John Kennedy (R-La.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.).