APTOPIX Israel Palestinians

Palestinians evacuate wounded in Israeli aerial bombing on Jabaliya, near Gaza City on Wednesday. Mohammad Al Masri/Associated Press

U.S. officials and the Qatari government have agreed to stop Iran from accessing a $6 billion account for humanitarian assistance in light of Hamas’s attack on Israel, Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo told House Democrats on Thursday, according to two people who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private remarks.

The decision not to permit access to the money comes just a few weeks after the U.S. and Iranian governments announced a deal to set up humanitarian assistance as part of a prisoner swap aimed at easing hostilities in the region. U.S. officials had to approve each transaction under the agreement. The fund is financed by Iranian oil sales.

But President Biden has faced mounting bipartisan pressure on Capitol Hill to prevent the funds from being used by Iran, amid scrutiny of Tehran’s links to Hamas. U.S. officials say Hamas has received weapons and training from Iran, but there has been no evidence of Iran’s direct role in the slaughter, The Washington Post previously reported.

Adeyemo told House Democrats that the money “isn’t going anywhere anytime soon,” according to three House Democratic aides, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal conversations. That comment was first reported by Punchbowl.

Senators of both parties, including Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, have called on the Biden administration to renege on the agreement.

Asked about the push to freeze the aid, Iran’s mission to the United Nations responded in a statement: “The senators in question and the U.S. government are all acutely aware that they can NOT renege on the agreement. The money rightfully belongs to the people of Iran, earmarked for the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to facilitate the acquisition of all essential and non-sanctioned requisites for the Iranians.”

Rescinding the aid would embolden hard-line voices in Iran that have rejected working with the West, said Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, a foreign policy think tank. Parsi also speculated that such a move could shift opinion within the regime in favor of building a nuclear bomb.

“If this step is taken, that status quo falls apart – and it will have a very detrimental effect on the internal discussions in Iran, within the regime,” Parsi said. “If there is no prospect of a deal with the U.S., it will likely tilt Iran toward building a bomb – and that would be an extremely dangerous situation.”

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has declared nuclear weapons forbidden by Islam and has vowed that Iran will never seek to build or acquire them.

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