June 18, 2024

In the wake of Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel, Sen. Tim Scott is among the Republicans criticizing President Joe Biden over last month’s prisoner swap with Iran. Scott, who is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a 2024 presidential candidate, said the unfreezing of $6 billion in Iranian oil assets as part of the deal between the U.S. and Iran created a “market for hostages.”

“When you negotiate and give $6 billion, you create a market for hostages, and the response to that has been Iran and Hamas working together without much of a question,” Scott said on “CBS Mornings” Wednesday.

After Hamas launched a large-scale attack on Israel Saturday, Republicans were quick to connect — without evidence — the assault to the $6 billion. The Biden administration has pushed back on claims the funds were used in the attack, with Treasury’s top sanctions official, Brian Nelson, saying Saturday that the funds are still in restricted accounts in Qatar.

Scott said Mr. Biden’s “weakness invited the attack” and “the negotiations funded the attack.”



“When there’s weakness in the White House, there’s blood in the streets,” said Scott.

The senator did not, however, provide hard evidence the money was used in the assault.

Jon Finer, a deputy national security adviser for the Biden administration told “CBS Mornings” on Monday that while Iran is “broadly complicit in these attacks” and has been Hamas’ “primary backer for decades,” the U.S. has not seen “any sort of direct involvement in the immediate attacks that took place over the last couple of days.”

Iran has denied any role in the assault, although the militant group could not exist in its current form without Iran’s financial and political backing.

Scott said he would like to hear the U.S. Treasury secretary explain “why was it so essential to release $6 billion to Iran” and whether there is a way to “claw back” the money.

More than 1,200 people, including at least 14 Americans, have been killed in Israel. Scores of people are being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza, including American citizens.

Scott said he supports the deployment of U.S. naval assets in the Mediterranean.

“We have no clue on how many hostages they have, but we do know that we must make sure that our firepower and our negotiation skills are in the region to help bring back those hostages safe,” Scott said.

Caitlin Yilek contributed to this article.

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