Sparks flew Tuesday as a senior Biden administration official clashed with a reporter over it allowing billions in unfrozen Iranian assets to return to the terror-funding nation.
The heated debate came during the State Department press briefing when agency spokesman Matthew Miller staunchly defended the decision to release the money back to the Iranian regime in the form of waivers, which the administration says can only be used for ‘humanitarian needs like food and medicine.’
The reporter noted that the money going to Iran for humanitarian reasons would free up billions the regime already had that it could put toward hostile activity across the Middle East, something Miller admitted had not changed for years.
‘I don’t accept that argument. What we believe is the Iranian regime is going to spend the same amount of money on destabilizing activities because it always has,’ Miller pushed back.
‘We will take actions to hold them accountable for those destabilizing activities, as we have from the beginning of this administration. What we have seen is that when these waivers have been issued, that money has been used for the benefit of the Iranian people, period,’ he added.
The reporter attempted to make the point again, that with the additional funding even if just for humanitarian purposes, Iran would be able to use money elsewhere as it desired.
Both then accused the other of making assumptions about Iran’s spending intentions and began talking over each other.
‘No, no. Let me finish. You are making the assumption when you say that the Iranian government is choosing the benefit of its people over funding terrorism and funding other destabilization. That’s not what we’ve seen,’ Miller said.
‘You’re making that assumption —,’ the reporter jumped in.
‘No, no, I’m not. I’ve seen them as a first priority fund destabilizing activities. We think increasing the amount of money that flows for the benefit of the Iranian people is something that’s worthwhile,’ Miller responded.
The reporter accused Miller of ‘twisting’ what he was saying, and stated that he wasn’t claiming that none of the unfrozen money would be used on food and medicine, to which Miller repeated that those were the only things the money could be spent on.
‘Yeah, but that means that they have X amount of dollars more in their own treasury that they can spend on destabilizing activities,’ the reporter hit back.
‘Only if you assume they were going to fund food and medicine and other activities. And I’m saying that’s not a necessarily correct assumption,’ Miller responded.
The two continued to go back and forth before Miller said he felt they were ‘arguing in circles.’
‘I don’t understand your argument that you can be so sure that none of this money is going to increase the amount of cash that Iran spends to destabilize the region,’ the reporter said, but Miller continued to repeat his point that Iran was already prioritizing spending on destabilizing activities over feeding its people.
The reporter appeared to eventually give up, saying, ‘All right. I just don’t understand how you can’t see the problem with this.’
‘And I don’t understand how you can’t — We don’t understand each other, I think,’ Miller responded, laughing.