money matters

NSC coordinator John Kirby pledges to limit Iranian access to transferred funds

In JI interview, Kirby adds that Qatar ties to Hamas could help lead to release of hostages

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Coordinator for Strategic Communications at the National Security Council John Kirby speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House October 12, 2023 in Washington, DC.

After facing mounting pressure to limit Iranian access to $6 billion in funds that was unfrozen after a U.S. prisoner swap last month, the White House has now stopped the transfer of those funds from a Qatari bank to humanitarian groups in Iran, The Washington Post reported on Thursday. 

A senior National Security Council official declined to comment on the validity of the report but told Jewish Insider on Thursday that Iran has not and will not access those funds. 

“What I can assure people today is it is not going anywhere, it is still in the National Bank of Qatar and we are watching it very closely,” John Kirby, the National Security Council’s coordinator for strategic communications, told JI. “None of that money has been accessed.”

Qatar has agreed to work with Washington to limit Iranian access to the money. But the Gulf nation, where several Hamas leaders live, has also come under scrutiny in recent days for its close ties to the terrorist group.

“Qatar has channels of communication with Hamas, and we recognize that,” said Kirby, who noted that the country “has been a partner” for the U.S. on many Middle East-related matters. He suggested that maintaining those lines of communication could prove useful in helping to secure the release of American hostages in Gaza.

“I’m not going to go into any more detail. I will just tell you that we will do everything we can to try to get those American hostages back home with their families where they belong, and we’re not going to eliminate or rule out any particular option right now,” said Kirby. “It’s not about reevaluating our relationship with Qatar.”

The move to limit Iran’s access to the promised funds comes even as Washington has maintained that Iran did not play a direct role in the Hamas attack, contrary to a report from The Wall Street Journal that found Iran had ordered the attack. Iran has for years been a significant funder of the Palestinian terrorist group.

“We just even today have not seen anything specific,” Kirby said. “Hamas would not be able to function without the support from Iran, so there is a degree of complicity here by the Iranian regime. Make no mistake about it. It’s just that we haven’t seen anything specific to these series of attacks.”

The White House still maintains the goal of stopping Iran’s nuclear ambitions “through diplomacy and dialogue,” said Kirby, “but unfortunately, diplomacy and dialogue are moribund right now.” 

Administration officials will not say the prospects for a nuclear deal are dead, but they acknowledge that’s essentially the reality of the situation.

“We haven’t been focused on the Iran nuclear deal for many, many months, because it was clear to us that the Iranians were not willing to negotiate in good faith,” said Kirby. “So we basically stopped trying.” 

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