Blinken on Hamas: ‘Depravity in the Worst Possible Way’
WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan 24) – Secretary of State Antony Blinken met in Israel on Thursday with its leadership, including members of the new emergency cabinet, as well as ordinary Israelis who had suffered from the brutalities of Hamas’s assault on Saturday.
On Friday morning, he arrived in Jordan, where he has held meetings with King Abdullah and Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank.
From Jordan, as Blinken announced, he will go on to Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt (the very countries that Kurdistan 24 anticipated he would visit, before his itinerary was announced.)
Although Blinken has been in office for nearly three years, this is the first time he is making an extensive tour of America’s Arab allies. Rather, the focus of U.S. diplomacy in the region until now, had been restoring the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, which Donald Trump left in 2018, and otherwise diminishing tensions with Tehran.
Notably, Iraq is not among the countries that Blinken will visit. The Biden administration has begun a “Strategic Dialogue” with Baghdad, but as events suggest, relations are not all that good.
Questions have arisen about the extent to which Iranian support for Hamas facilitated Saturday’s assault, and political pressure, including from Democrats, has risen against the Biden administration’s outreach to Iran.
Indeed, this is the first time that Democrats have joined Republicans in criticizing the administration on that outreach, and it responded very quickly, backtracking on the controversial policy.
The administration announced that, in concert with Qatar, it would refreeze the $6 billion in Iranian assets that had just been unfrozen in the context of a prisoner exchange with Iran concluded last month.
These U.S. measures come, as Israel appears to be preparing for a major offensive into Gaza. On Friday morning, it issued a statement giving the residents of the northern half of the Gaza Strip orders to move to the south within the next 24 hours.
Later that day, Hamas responded by telling Palestinians to ignore the Israeli order and remain where they are.
The situation is clearly dramatic and in flux. What will come next remains to be seen. but it all follows on Hamas’s assault on Saturday in which nearly 140 Israelis, including 27 Americans, were killed.
Pictures of Hamas Atrocities Shown to Blinken
In his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Blinken was shown pictures of the atrocities committed by Hamas, and a journalist asked Blinken about that at the end of his 12 hour visit to Israel.
Blinken confirmed that he had, indeed, been shown such pictures, as well as videos. “It’s beyond what anyone would ever want to imagine, much less actually see and, God forbid, experience,” he stated.
“A baby, an infant, riddled with bullets,” Blinken continued. “Soldiers beheaded. Young people burned alive in their cars or in their hideaway rooms. I could go on, but it’s simply depravity in the worst imaginable way.”
“This is a moment where everyone needs to make clear that there is revulsion, disgust, and a determination, a determination not to allow this to go forward,” he added.
“Images are worth a thousand words. These images may be worth a million,” Blinken stated, underscoring the impact the gruesome pictures make on those who see them.
Re-Freezing $ 6 Billion in Iranian Funds
On Wednesday, two Republican Senators introduced a bill that included blocking the planned release of $6 billion in Iranian funds, a measure that was taken by the Biden administration in the context of last month’s prisoner swap.
The bill immediately received “strong bipartisan support,” as wire services reported.
Biden administration has said that it does not have evidence of direct Iranian involvement in Saturday’s attack, but Iran has been such a strong backer of Hamas over such a long time that there is some degree of responsibility.
As John Kirby, National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications, told reporters on Thursday, “We haven’t seen any specific evidence that Iran was involved specifically with these attacks, but as we’ve said, broadly, yes, they are certainly complicit.”
“We’re not walking away from the fact that Iran has supported Hamas and other terrorist networks,” Kirby affirmed.
On the same day, Wally Adeyemo, Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, informed Congressional Democrats that Iran no longer had access to those funds, as The New York Times reported.
The money is not formally frozen, but there is “a quiet understanding with Qatar” that Iran cannot access it now, the Times said.
The administration had consistently maintained that unfreezing the money was not a problem, because it could only be used for humanitarian purposes.
But it ignored the point that money is fungible, and the money that the Iranian government had been spending to import food and medicine for its population could now be used for malign purposes, including support for terrorist networks.
However, the administration appears to have dropped that position, at least for now. Quite possibly, other changes in its policy toward the region may follow, but that is dependent on the course of events, and remains to be seen.