Donald Trump, Benjamin Netanyahu
Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu in 2017. Photo credit: US Embassy Tel Aviv / Wikimedia

It’s fair to criticize the Biden administration for the course it has chosen in its dealings in the Middle East, but claiming that the funds released to Iran were used in the attack is a lie, and doing so while dead bodies are still lying in the streets of Israel is beyond the pale.

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True to their strategy of never letting a crisis go to waste, top Republicans immediately tried to lay the blame for this weekend’s deadly attacks on Israel at the feet of President Joe Biden… and they did so in a manner that was so disingenuous that even Fox News fact-checked them.

Before we get into that, it is important to note that there are plenty of legitimate policy differences between Republicans and Democrats when it comes to Israel. While the right-wing governments of Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu had a very close relationship during the presidency of the former, the Israeli prime minister and Biden do not see eye-to-eye as much.

When it comes to Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians, it is fair to say that, in general, Republicans favor a more confrontational approach while that of the Democrats is more conciliatory.

During a time of conflict, like the Hamas attacks that are quickly turning into a war, it is perfectly normal to highlight these differences. It is even understandable that Republicans would try to capitalize on them politically by making the case that appeasement is not working.

Granted, it would probably have been prudent to not immediately try to turn a attack into a domestic political issue in the US, but, in today’s (social) media environment, you can’t expect that kind of restraint anymore.

However, it is truly scandalous (but not unexpected) that some of the GOP’s leading figures wasted no time before blaming Biden for the death and suffering in Israel.

“These Hamas attacks are a disgrace and Israel has every right to defend itself with overwhelming force,” said Trump. “Sadly, American taxpayer dollars helped fund these attacks.”

While the first part of that statement is perfectly normal, it is the second part that is highly dishonest, and it is worth explaining why because you will likely hear a lot about it in the coming days and weeks.

It is a reference to a recent deal the Biden administration made with Iran in an effort to get five Americans released who were imprisoned there. As part of it, the US agreed to unfreeze $6 billion that South Korea owed Tehran for importing Iranian oil.

In other words, this was money owed to Iran and none of it came from “American taxpayer dollars.” In addition, these funds have not been sent to Tehran. The money is currently being held in Qatari bank accounts and can only be spent on humanitarian aid and food.

But that doesn’t matter to those who are trying to turn an attack on foreign soil into a political attack in the US.

By their logic, US money (false) was paid to Iran (false) for five American prisoners. And, because Iran supports Hamas (true), those funds were used to pay for the attack on Israel (false).

However, don’t take our word for it.

This claim is so outrageously wrong that even Fox News, usually a reliable propaganda outlet for the GOP, countered it.

Here is what Jennifer Griffin, the network’s chief national security correspondent, had to say about it in a series of tweets:

The $6 billion was sent to what has been described to me as an even more secure bank account in Qatar where it still sits. To withdraw any of the money the US Treasury still has to validate the bills of lading for the money to be used. The Qataris have oversight over the money.

This was Iranian money that even the Trump administration had agreed could be used by Iran for humanitarian reasons as long as those purchases for food and medicine were verified. The release of this money as part of the recent Biden admin hostage deal was not to Iran.

So politicians who are saying this $6 billion somehow may have been transferred to Iran for use in this Hamas invasion are wrong. There is no evidence any of that $6 billion has left the Qatari account as of yet, according to US officials who served both administrations.

Now, you might say that Trump is known for making stuff up, so it should not be surprising that he lied about this.

However, it wasn’t just him in this case.

For example, here is Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), who is also running for president.

“America’s weakness is blood in the water for bad actors, but this is worse than that,” Scott stated. “We didn’t just invite this aggression, we paid for it. Iran is the biggest funder of Hamas. This is the Biden $6 billion ransom payment at work.”

It bears repeating that it would be fair to examine and criticize the Biden administration for the course it has chosen, including the decision to unfreeze these Iranian funds.

However, claiming that this money was used in the attacks is a lie… and doing so while dead bodies are still lying in the streets of Israel is beyond the pale.


  • Klaus Marre

    Klaus Marre is a writer, editor, former congressional reporter, and director of the WhoWhatWhy Mentor Apprentice Program. Follow him on Twitter @KlausMarre.

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