WHAT WAS SAID
“Sadly, American taxpayer dollars helped fund these attacks, which many reports are saying came from the Biden administration.”
— Former President Donald J. Trump in an Oct. 7 statement
This is false.
Soon after the Hamas attacks on Israel, former President Donald J. Trump and other Republicans tried to cast blame on President Biden — saying that a recent deal brokered to secure the release of five Americans detained in Iran helped to finance the assault. Iran is a longtime backer of Hamas, a Palestinian militant group that has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States.
As part of the deal in question, the U.S. facilitated the transfer of $6 billion of Iranian profits from oil sales from banks in South Korea to Qatar so that Iran could use it for food and other humanitarian purposes.
But that $6 billion is not U.S. taxpayer money, as Mr. Trump and others, including Vivek Ramaswamy, another of the Republican presidential candidates, falsely stated. Nor is there evidence that the money, which officials have said is subject to Treasury Department oversight, was used to finance the attacks.
In fact, the White House National Security Council said the money in question hasn’t been accessed by Iran.
“Not a single cent from these funds has been spent, and when it is spent, it can only be spent on things like food and medicine for the Iranian people,” a spokeswoman for the N.S.C., Adrienne Watson, said in a statement on Saturday. “These funds have absolutely nothing to do with the horrific attacks today and this is not the time to spread disinformation.”
The $6 billion was already technically usable by Iran for humanitarian purposes, but it was essentially frozen in South Korea because banks there were reluctant to disburse it and run afoul of U.S. rules, said Patrick Clawson, director of research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He said that the Trump administration had similarly tried to find a way to set up a channel for the money to be provided for humanitarian purposes, but was unsuccessful.
Even with rules in place limiting how the money may be used, Mr. Clawson said critics of the Biden administration may well argue that providing Iran with access to the $6 billion effectively freed up other money that the Iranian government could then use to fund Hamas and therefore support such attacks.
“Money is fungible,” he said.