Republican 2024 presidential candidates blamed the Biden administration for the attacks Hamas terrorists launched against Israel on Saturday, pointing to the deadly developments as evidence of U.S. weakness on the world stage and claiming that the administration is partially responsible.
Several of them insisted, without evidence, that the U.S. funded these attacks by suggesting that $6 billion in oil revenue that the Biden administration recently unfroze as a result of a prisoner exchange with Iran, which has historically funded Hamas, was used to carry them out.
“These Hamas attacks are a disgrace and Israel has every right to defend itself with overwhelming force. Sadly, American taxpayer dollars helped fund these attacks, which many reports are saying came from the Biden Administration,” former President Donald Trump said in a statement.
Trump, who has been leading the GOP primary pack, added that his administration brought “so much peace to the Middle East through the Abraham Accords, only to see Biden whittle it away at a far more rapid pace than anyone thought possible. Here we go again.”
Former Vice President Mike Pence, who’s running for president, said in a statement, “This is what happens when America’s president projects weakness on the world stage, kowtows to the mullahs in Iran with a $6 Billion ransom, and leaders in the Republican Party signal American retreat as Leader of the Free World. Weakness arouses Evil.”
In remarks at the beginning of an event in Glenwood, Iowa on Saturday morning, Pence responded to the situation in Israel and blamed both Biden, but also Republicans, who he said are “signaling retreat on the world stage.”
The Biden administration refuted the GOP criticism, saying that the $6 billion in oil revenue Iran regained access to recently did not come from U.S. taxpayer dollars.
“The ground truth is — not a dollar of the $6 billion has been spent yet so that line of attack is just bad faith and wrong,” a senior administration official said.
The official said the money was not going directly to Iran and the agreement said that Iran could only use the money to buy food, medicine and other humanitarian items allowed by U.S. economic sanctions.
“These funds will be spent through individual humanitarian transactions, likely over a period of years,” the official said. “The ability to use these funds in Qatar will be tied directly to payment for bona fide humanitarian items — food, agricultural commodities, medicine, and medical devices only — requests vetted and approved by Qatari banks and their European correspondents, who are themselves committed to sanctions compliance. No funds go into Iran — ever. These funds will be used solely to provide essential humanitarian support to the Iranian people, with payment to vetted third-party vendors.”
Another presidential contender, Vivek Ramaswamy, said in a post on the social platform X, “America’s broken foreign policy establishment knew they were funding Hamas & went ahead with it anyway. The unprecedented $6BN in ransom paid to Iran last month worsened it: our taxpayer dollars are funding Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah. This will end on Day 1 of my administration.”
Despite the assurances from the White House about the limits Iran would have with the money, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said in an interview with NBC News in Tehran that his government would decide how it would spend the $6 billion.
Qatar’s central bank is overseeing the funds, which Iran can only use for humanitarian purposes, as allowed by U.S. sanctions, U.S. officials have said.
But Raisi said in the interview that Iran would have “authority” over how the money would be spent. “This money belongs to the Iranian people, the Iranian government, so the Islamic Republic of Iran will decide what to do with this money,” he said, according to an Iranian government translator.
Former Gov. Chris Christie, of New Jersey, was extremely critical of President Joe Biden, faulting him for not only Hamas’ attacks on Israel but also Russia’s attacks against Ukraine.
“Biden’s appeasement of Israel’s enemies has invited this war against Israel,” Christie said in a post on X. “Appeasement anywhere never works. We must do whatever it takes to support the State of Israel in its time of grave danger, and we must end the scourge of Iran-backed terrorism. This terrorism is funded by Biden’s idiotic release of $6 billion to the Iranians.”
“The Hamas war against Israel is now the second war started under Biden’s failed presidency, first by Russia in Ukraine and now by Hamas in Israel,” Christie added.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a similar post on X, “Israel is now under attack by Iranian-backed Hamas terrorists. Iran has helped fund this war against Israel and Joe Biden’s policies that have gone easy on Iran have helped fill their coffers. We are going to stand with Israel as they root out Hamas and we need to stand up to Iran.”
Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, another 2024 GOP presidential candidate, said in a statement that the attacks are an “assault on Western Civilization.”
“The truth is though, Joe Biden funded these attacks on Israel,” Scott said. “America’s weakness is blood in the water for bad actors, but this is worse than that. We didn’t just invite this aggression, we paid for it. Iran is the biggest funder of Hamas. This is the Biden $6 billion ransom payment at work.”
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under Trump, was the only Republican who didn’t explicitly blame the Biden administration for the attacks. “Hamas is a bloodthirsty terrorist organization backed by Iran and determined to kill as many innocent lives as possible. The reports out of Israel are horrific with a stunning number of dead and wounded and should be universally condemned. Israel has every right to defend its citizens from terror,” she said in a statement.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said on X that the attacks are “symbolic of the times we find ourselves in with weak leadership in the White House.”
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum wrote on X that Iran pays for the terrorism against Israel and blamed Biden. He said the U.S. “must provide maximum support to our democratic ally.
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com
Evan Massoud is a political analyst with a knack for dissecting policy and governance. He provides readers with informed perspectives on political developments at home and abroad. Evan’s dedication to civic engagement extends to volunteering in local politics.