11/30/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 11/30/2023 17:44
Washington, D.C. - Today, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul delivered the following remarks in support of his bill, H.R. 5961, the No Funds for Iranian Terrorism Act, on the House Floor. Read the full text of the bill here.
- Remarks as Delivered -
We are here today because the Biden administration cut a dangerous, reckless hostage deal that puts a price on every American head all over the world. And we have a responsibility to the American people to repair this damage.
First, let me say that I am relieved that Americans held hostage by Iran are safely at home. They have been through a terrible ordeal and should never have been imprisoned in the first place.
But as part of this deal, the administration dropped charges against five Iranian criminals charged with endangering our national security, including by aiding Iran's nuclear program.
And at Iran's request, the administration waived sanctions on six billion dollars of Iranian funds which had been frozen in South Korea to allow that money to be transferred and funneled to a bank account in Doha, Qatar. An undisclosed bank, Madame Chair.
Under this deal, Iran is getting access to 1.2 billion dollars per blue passport. Per American citizen. It is obvious that this agreement incentivizes more hostage-taking.
The administration is claiming that this money can only be used for humanitarian purchases, like food and medicine.
But Iran has long history of sanction evasion and money laundering, [which] means we cannot truly know where the funds end up or how they will be used.
If we had any doubt about Iran's intentions, look no further than DOJ's 2019 indictment against a Turkish bank.
This bank played a central role in facilitating billions of dollars' worth of fraudulent Iranian transactions. These transactions were manipulated to look like "humanitarian" expenses, when in fact no such purchases took place. This is nothing new, but let's look at Iran's own words.
Iran's President Raisi bragged to the world that Iran would spend the six billion dollars "wherever we need it." What more evidence do we need, Madame Chair, than that? This is not going [towards] humanitarian purposes, it is going towards terrorism. "Wherever we need it."
And money is fungible, as everybody knows. Giving Iran access to these funds for any purpose frees up money for its malign activities, including its support to proxies, like we saw on October 7, like Hamas.
Blocking money to Iran is the most consequential thing we can do here, in this Congress, to stop Iran's financing of terrorism to Hamas and other proxies, to help keep our troops safe who are under fire from Iran-backed militias.
After Hamas' brutal October 7 massacre of over 1,200 innocent people in Israel, the largest attack on Jewish people since the Holocaust, Madame Chair, and over 70 attacks on our forces by Iran-backed proxies this Fall, no one can deny Iran's role as the world's leading state-sponsor of terror.
Put simply, the Middle East is on fire, and Iran's proxies are becoming more aggressive everyday with increasing attacks, threatening to throw the Middle East into complete [destabilization].
And now Iran's [destabilizing] influence extends beyond the Middle East - they continue to supply deadly drones to Russia, supporting their unprovoked war of aggression in Ukraine.
Iran is going to keep funneling tens of millions of dollars to Hamas and other terror groups, [propping them up with our adversaries like China, Russia, and North Korea with weapons.
We need to take every measure possible to stop Iran from giving its proxies another dime.
After the October 7 attack by Hamas, in which they took 240 hostages, and Madame Chair we met with some of the families yesterday. And it was one of the most horrific experiences, what their loved ones are going through right now in Gaza. Americans held hostage, who have still not been able to get out. They are in an absolute Hell right now. In darkness.
But it is absolutely undeniable that this hostage deal was a catastrophic mistake. The narrative was something before October 7. Now they are trying to hide from this deal after October 7 because they know what they did was wrong. Because they know what they are doing is funding terror in the Middle East.
This body - this Congress - needs to repair that damage.
And that's why my bill, the No Funds for Iranian Terrorism Act, imposes new sanctions to permanently prevent the transfer of six billion dollars in Iranian funds covered under the 2023 hostage deal which, by the way, Madame Chair, I haven't seen this deal. The administration says there is a deal. They have not provided that deal to me, nor to my colleagues to my knowledge.
But one thing is clear: This is a moment of moral clarity.
With such instability in the region, the last thing we need to do is to give Iran access to six billion dollars to be diverted to more Iranian-sponsored terrorism.
We must sanction anyone who enables the transfer, or processing [of] transactions of these funds. Period.
Put very simply and succinctly, I can't imagine how anybody could vote against this bill. How could anybody support six billion dollars going into Iran, when we know - both in classified space, which we cannot talk about here, but in the declassified space - exactly who is behind October 7. Iran is the head of the snake, and the snake had its tentacles all throughout the Middle East. In Gaza with Hamas. In Yemen with the Houthi rebels. In Iraq and Syria with the Iran-backed militias who, by the way, Madame Chair, are hitting our troops every day. They are under fire by Iran, and we are going to give them six billion dollars?
Now the other side will say, "That's Iran's money." It's sanctioned money. This administration chose to lift the sanctions on the six billion dollars, [but] my bill says: No, Mr. President. We in the Congress say, "No" to this policy, and we are going to put sanctions on the money so Iran cannot get access to this to fund more terrorism, more killing of innocent Jewish people.
And I don't have to go into graphic detail about what happened on October 7, but we all saw the Hamas video and the gruesomeness of it. I, Madame Chair, will not sit by idly and allow this to happen while Americans are under fire and the Jewish people are being killed by these terrorists.
I urge my colleagues to support this bill.