Iranian President Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi has stated that the United States has no authority to dictate the use of $6 billion in oil funds that were released as part of a prisoner-exchange agreement between the two countries. In an NBC News interview on Tuesday, Raisi emphasized that the money belongs to the Iranian people and the Iranian government, and thus it is the Islamic Republic of Iran that will decide how to allocate the funds.
When asked if the money would be used for humanitarian purposes as demanded by the US, Raisi explained, “Humanitarian means whatever the Iranian people need, so this money will be budgeted for those needs, and the needs of the Iranian people will be decided and determined by the Iranian government.”
This assertion by Raisi directly contradicts the stance of the US President Joe Biden’s administration. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller informed reporters on Tuesday that the funds would be held in Qatari banks and closely monitored by the US Treasury Department to ensure that they are solely used for humanitarian purposes.
The prisoner exchange agreement involves the release of five Americans who had been detained on espionage charges and five Iranians who had been imprisoned in the US for allegedly violating Washington’s sanctions against Tehran. Additionally, the Biden administration issued sanctions waivers to enable South Korean banks to release $6 billion in frozen Iranian funds.
It is important to note that tens of billions of dollars owed to Iran for oil and other exports were frozen in bank accounts worldwide under US sanctions, initiated in 2018 after then-President Donald Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal. Biden had promised to revive the nuclear agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), during his presidential campaign in 2020. However, he has been unsuccessful in doing so since taking office in January 2021.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby had previously stated that the unfrozen funds could only be utilized for essential purchases such as food, medicine, and medical equipment that do not have military applications. In an MSNBC interview on Tuesday, Kirby speculated that Raisi’s remarks may be intended to appease his domestic audience by suggesting that Iran has full discretion over the use of the funds.
In conclusion, President Ebrahim Raisi of Iran has asserted Iran’s right to determine the allocation of $6 billion in unfrozen oil funds, dismissing any authority held by the United States. The discrepancy in views between the two countries regarding the usage of these funds highlights the ongoing tension and divergent perspectives in their relationship.