Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said Tehran will spend $6 billion in assets shelled out by the Biden administration “wherever we need it,” despite U.S. officials previously stating that it was intended strictly for humanitarian purposes, NBC News reported Tuesday.
Iran struck a deal with the Biden administration in August to release five American prisoners in exchange for the transfer of $6 billion in previously frozen assets, on the condition that the funds would only be used for humanitarian needs. But Raisi said that Iran has the “authority” to use the funds however it sees fit, raising questions about the terms of the deal, according to NBC.
“This money belongs to the Iranian people, the Iranian government, so the Islamic Republic of Iran will decide what to do with this money,” Raisi said during an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken gave the final go-ahead last week for the $6 billion transfer from South Korea to Qatar, the country that will dole out the funds back to Iran. Biden administration officials previously said that the funds would be used “for humanitarian aid only,” according to NBC.
But when asked about whether the funds will be used for purposes other than humanitarian needs, Raisi said that all needs of the Iranian people fall under that category, NBC reported
“Humanitarian means whatever the Iranian people needs, so this money will be budgeted for those needs and the needs of the Iranian people will be decided and determined by the Iranian government,” Raisi said.
Raisi said that the five American prisoners – Siamak Namazi, Emad Sharghi, Morad Tahbaz, and two unidentified persons – are in “very healthy condition” under house arrest, and would be freed in “due time,” according to the Associated Press and NBC. However, the families of the prisoners say they have been poorly treated and put through extensive interrogations during their incarceration.
Foreign policy experts and lawmakers have decried the Biden administration’s exchange deal as “ransom,” and said that it is unlikely to cool tensions between Iran and the U.S. They also warned that it may embolden Iran to act even more aggressively toward the U.S. and take more American hostages in the hopes of another payout.
“President Biden is going through with his $6 BILLION payout to the IRGC and its proxies,” Republican Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst said on Twitter Monday. “This will only greenlight Iran’s illicit actions and encourage further hostage ‘diplomacy.’”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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