Iran’s $6 billion fund in Qatari banks still not accessed after Hamas attack, sources say

Qatari foreign ministry sources tell The National that 'nothing has changed' in terms of their policies regarding the fund

US citizens Siamak Namazi, Emad Sharqi and Morad Tahbaz arrive at Doha International Airport in September. AFP
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Qatari and US officials confirmed that Iran has still not accessed a $6 billion fund that was deposited in Qatari bank accounts as part of a prisoners exchange deal last month.

After the militant group Hamas's surprise attack on Israel, various news outlets reported that the US and Qatari officials would freeze the fund.

Qatari foreign ministry sources told The National that “nothing has changed” in terms of their policies regarding the fund and that Iran has not yet accessed any of the $6 billion.

The money in question was unfrozen in a US-Iran prisoner-swap deal announced in recent weeks, in which five US detainees were released by Iran after the funds were transferred to accounts in Qatar.

But The Washington Post reported on Thursday that a decision was made to halt access to the funds, while President Joe Biden faces rising pressure on the matter given concerns over Iran's connections to Hamas.

Tehran, which financially and militarily backs Hamas, has come under intense scrutiny since fighters from the militant group stormed across Israel's southern border at the weekend.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed that the funds were not necessarily re-frozen but that strict oversight remains in place.

"We have strict oversight of the funds and we retain the right to freeze them," Mr Blinken said in Tel Aviv on Thursday.

Five US prisoners released from Iran in swap

Five US prisoners released from Iran in swap

“None of the funds that have now gone to Qatar have actually been spent or accessed in any way by Iran. Indeed, funds from that account are overseen by the Treasury Department and can only be dispensed for humanitarian goods, food, medicine, medical equipment,” he added.

US Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo told Democrats in the House of Representatives that the Iran funds are not "going anywhere anytime soon," according to The Washington Post report.

Some US senators have called for a re-freeze of the $6 billion in Iranian oil revenue as the conflict raged on.

The Biden administration maintains that the money is restricted to humanitarian use, and previously said it had yet to be dispensed.

A former senior US intelligence official warned Congress last month that Iran could divert billions of dollars in unfrozen humanitarian funds to its missile programme and proxy groups.

Norman Roule, who worked on the Iran file at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence from 2008 until 2017, said Tehran could easily exploit the arrangement.

“The deal's financial relief allows Iran to divert resources previously intended for humanitarian purchases to its security forces, missile programmes, proxy groups and terrorism,” Mr Roule, now a senior adviser at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, told a Republican-majority subcommittee hearing on the Middle East and North Africa.

Updated: October 13, 2023, 8:08 AM