Several Republican presidential candidates blamed President Joe Biden and his administration for Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel over the weekend.
The Israeli government has responded with a formal declaration of war against the militant group. The fighting has so far led to the death of more than 1,200 people and thousands wounded on both sides.
Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley on Sunday took issue with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s comments that the Hamas attack had nothing to do with the release of nearly $6 billion in frozen Iranian assets in return for the freedom of five Americans as part of a U.S.-Iran prisoner exchange deal last month.
“Let’s be honest with the American people and understand that Hamas knows, and Iran knows, they’re moving money around as we speak, because they know six billion is going to be released,” Haley told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “That’s the reality.”
Blinken, though, said the U.S. Treasury is monitoring the funds to check they are only being used for humanitarian purposes, as mandated in the agreement.
“Not a single dollar from that account has actually been spent to date,” Blinken told ABC’s “This Week.” “And in any event, it’s very carefully and closely regulated by the Treasury Department to make sure that it’s only used for food, for medicine, for medical equipment.”
The Wall Street Journal reported that Iranian security officials assisted the attack on Israel, citing senior members of Hamas and Hezbollah, another Iran-backed militant group. But U.S. officials say they haven’t seen evidence thus far to suggest Tehran’s direct involvement.
This, however, hasn’t stopped other Republicans from making similar claims, including businessman and presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy.
“If you’re somebody who had just gotten $6 billion, even if that’s reserved for purposes that you were otherwise allocating your own dollars, you can still use those dollars for other uses,” he told reporters Saturday, according to CBS News.
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, who is also seeking the GOP nomination, accused Iran of sponsoring terrorism, saying the country “is billions of dollars wealthier thanks to Joe Biden,” while Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) argued that “Israel is now paying the price” for what he described as the president’s poor foreign policy choices.
“Iran has helped fund this war against Israel, and Joe Biden’s policies that have gone easy on Iran has helped to fill their coffers,” DeSantis, another presidential contender, said in a video posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.) stayed in line with his fellow GOP presidential hopefuls, telling the National Review that the situation in Israel is a result of the U.S.’s “presentation of weakness” on the world stage.
Former Vice President Mike Pence piled on Biden, saying the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in August 2021 “emboldened the enemies of freedom around the world.” He also pointed to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.
“President Joe Biden’s kowtowing for the last two and a half years to the mullahs in Iran, lifting sanctions, begging them to get back in the Iran nuclear deal and then paying $6 billion in a ransom for hostages, I think, set the conditions for this unprecedented terrorist attack,” Pence told CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday.
Pence also had harsh words for three of his GOP rivals ― DeSantis, Ramaswamy and his onetime boss, former President Donald Trump.
“This is what happens when we have leading voices like Donald Trump, Vivek Ramaswamy, and Ron DeSantis signaling retreat from America’s role as leader of the free world,” Pence said.
Trump, the front-runner in the race, claimed the attack “never” would have taken place if he was in the Oval Office.
“THE HORRIBLE ATTACK ON ISRAEL, MUCH LIKE THE ATTACK ON UKRAINE, WOULD NEVER HAVE HAPPENED IF I WERE PRESIDENT – ZERO CHANCE!” he wrote on his Truth Social platform.
Meanwhile, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) spoke against members of his own party over the removal of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as House speaker with no direct succession plan amid a world crisis.
“They’re now even putting a brighter light on the irresponsibility of not having someone in place,” Christie told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.