Iran May Get $1.7 Billion More In Un-Frozen Funds, With Risk It Gets Funneled To Hamas
Iran says European courts have ordered repayments of $1.7 billion more of its money frozen in Western banks, which risks being transferred to help fund Hamas' war with Israel. Other observers suspect the news is meant to stop financial panic in Tehran.
Having launched a war against Israel, Hamas needs help.
Iran has a long history of supporting Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls Gaza and shares a deep hatred toward Israel. Contradictory reports have been circulating in and out of Tehran about what role Iran may have played in supporting Hamas assault in Israel that has killed more than 800 Israeli civilians and triggered what promises to be the region's largest and longest war in a generation.
On Tuesday, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei denied any direct Iranian involvement in the latest attack against Israel. Yet even if it played no direct role, Tehran is likely to want to support the Palestinian militants in the unfolding conflict against Israel. And that may include financial aid.
Having faced a major shortage in cash in recent years, Iran's prisoner exchange deal last month the U.S. included the unblocking of $6 billion of funds frozen in South Korean banks.
The frozen funds are part of a range of Western sanctions against Tehran over its suspected nuclear program, its ballistics program, massive human rights violations and its long history of meddling in regional affairs. The willingness of the current U.S. administration of President Joe Biden to negotiate with Iran sparked anger both among Iranian opponents of the regime and prominent Republicans including former President Donald Trump. They've accused the Biden administration of pandering to a terrorist regime in line with what they believe was a soft approach taken by previous Democratic President Barack Obama.
A day after Hamas attacked Israel, Iran revealed that a court in Luxembourg, following a European ruling, would allow it to access $1.7 billion of its funds held by one of the country's banks, Clearstream. The money had been frozen in 2020 at the request of U.S. citizens.
Separately, a legal affairs office at the Iranian presidency stated that a court at The Hague considering disputes between the Islamic Republic and the United States had instructed the latter to pay $43 million into an Iranian account in The Netherlands. Some sources suggested the money may have been paid.
Will it only spend the money to ramp up repression at home and finance mayhem in the Middle East?
Since the Hamas assault on Israel, the Biden administration has faced increasing questions on the logic of providing Iran's regime with cash relief in exchange for its hoped-for good conduct. Regime opponents insist it will only spend the money to ramp up repression at home and finance mayhem in the Middle East.
Other observers, however, say Iran decided to divulge these financial rulings to prevent a run on its money at home, as anxiety rises among Iranians about what might happen to the country.
President Raisi warned Western countries on Iran's military action upon 'any minor mistake' from their side, and also threatened Israel during the country's annual National Army Day.
Iran's economic crisis
The attack on Israel immediately raised the price of Western currencies and gold in Tehran, and depressed stock prices. Prague-based Radio Free Europe cited Iranian dailies as reporting overnight hikes in prices of imported Japanese cars on October 8, with a rise of up to $40,000 for one Lexus model. Locally assembled cars saw their prices jump by the equivalent of between $400 and $3,500, according to local papers.
In the United States, two Republican legislators, Don Bacon and the Senator Marco Rubio, wrote on Twitter that President Biden's appeasement policy was effectively, if indirectly, financing the attack on Israel.
Iran's exiled crown prince, Reza Pahlavi, who has repeatedly, if diplomatically, urged Western states to tighten the noose around the regime, also tweeted that there will be no peace in the Middle East until Tehran's Islamist rule is "thrown into the trash bin of history."
Another opponent and former regime policeman Fariborz Karami-Zand, recently tweeted that Hamas was right now spending the $6 billion, though it wasn't clear if Iran had accessed the funds yet. All the sums cited are in any case, a drop in the ocean of Iran's economic troubles.
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