President Biden was justifiably praised for his remarks on October 7 and 10 pledging “rock solid” American support for Israel and strongly condemning the barbaric terrorist attack against Israel by Hamas, an Iranian terrorist proxy. Biden spoke passionately, calling the Hamas violence “pure unadulterated evil” and a “violation of every code of human morality.” Axios called Biden’s October 10 speech “perhaps the most powerful statement of support for Israel by a sitting U.S. president since Harry Truman recognized the Jewish state in 1948.”
But a crucial omission undermined the moral clarity of Biden’s speeches: there was no mention of Iran which funds and arms Hamas and reportedly was deeply involved in the planning and execution of the October 7 terrorist attack.
Making this worse, Biden officials have tried since last weekend to downplay reports of Iran’s involvement by claiming they haven’t seen any evidence of this. In response to bipartisan criticism of its approach, the Biden administration is now scrambling to address allegations that Iran was behind the attack without giving up its ongoing negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program that have provided Iran with significant sanctions relief and other concessions.
According to a bombshell Wall Street Journal report on October 8, Iranian officials helped plan the Hamas attack against Israel over several weeks and gave the green light to launch it during an October 2, 2023 meeting in Beirut. The Journal also reported that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps worked with Hamas since last August to prepare the air, land, and sea incursions of the attack. The Journal sourced this article to “senior members of Hamas and Hezbollah, another Iran-backed militant group.”
In addition, the BBC reported on October 8 that a Hamas spokesman said Hamas had direct backing from Iran for the attack.
There are many reasons to believe that Iran was intimately involved in the Hamas attack. Aside from the funding and arms it provides to Hamas, the level of sophistication of the attack was well beyond anything Hamas has done before. The training, strategy, and measures to evade detection from Israeli and American intelligence strongly suggest a nation-state was behind the attack: Iran. It also is impossible to believe that Hamas would conduct an operation like this without informing its principal benefactor.
I believe Iran organized this attack to derail efforts by Saudi Arabia and Israel to negotiate an Abrham Accords-like agreement to normalize relations and to dissuade other Arab states from signing such agreements. Iran and Hamas were also motivated to conduct the attack by their longtime pledge to destroy the State of Israel.
The Biden Administration initially tried to brush aside reports of an Iranian role in the terrorist attack by saying that although they concede Iran provides funding and arms to Hamas, there is no intelligence proving Iran’s involvement in this attack.
Right on queue, the U.S. Intelligence Community on October 11 released unclassified information that supported the Biden administration’s position. According to NBC News, U.S. intelligence obtained “exquisite” intelligence showing that Iranian leaders were surprised by the Hamas terrorist, according to an unnamed source “with direct knowledge of the matter.” NBC said a second source described the intelligence as “good evidence.”
Predictably, the New York Times said this finding cast doubt on whether Iran played a direct role in the attack.
The New York Times also reported that a senior U.S. intelligence official told members of Congress in a briefing on Tuesday that there was no direct link between Iran and the Hamas attack but added that U.S. agencies had intelligence with contradicting assertions that Iran had helped plan the attack.
This intelligence finding did not comment on the alleged October 2 meeting in Beirut of Iranian and Hamas officials reported by the Wall Street Journal when Iran reportedly approved the October 7 terrorist attack.
Biden officials also tried to deflect allegations of Iran’s involvement by talking at length about why a $6 billion payment to Iran to free U.S. prisoners, a payment that Biden critics have referred to as ransom, could not have been used to finance the Hamas attack because Iran has not yet accessed these funds which are being held in a Qatari bank.
This is a false argument because Hamas did not need funds from the $6 billion payment because revenue for Iran and Hamas has surged since 2021 due to other Biden Administration policies. The Biden administration resumed sending hundreds of millions of dollars to the Palestinian Authority in 2021 – funding cut off by President Trump – even though Biden officials assessed that these payments would boost Hamas. Iranian oil revenue surged from $6.6 million in 2020 to $30 billion in 2022 because the Biden administration has refused to fully enforce U.S. oil sanctions on Iran.
After bipartisan demands that the Biden administration hold Iran accountable for the Hamas terrorist attack, Biden officials began equivocating. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on October 11 that Iran was “complicit” in the attack, but the U.S. did not know if Iran helped plan or direct it.
The next day, National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby made a similar statement when he said:
“Hamas wouldn’t have been able to function at all had it not been for propping up by the Iranian regime. But we haven’t seen any specific evidence that tells us they were wittingly involved in the planning or involved in the resourcing and the training that went into this very complex set of attacks.”
There was a more dramatic Biden Administration policy shift on Thursday when U.S. and Qatari officials agreed to stop Iran from accessing the $6 billion being held in a bank in Qatar. At least six Senate Democrats had called on the Biden administration to freeze these funds, including Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), who said, “The world just changed, and it changed because Iran has built a barbaric terrorist organization inside Gaza that just raped and murdered hundreds of Israelis.”
Despite news of the freezing of the $6 billion, Florida Congressman Michael Waltz, in a October 12 statement to the Fox News program Special Report, expressed skepticism that these funds were actually frozen and said he thought this announcement was a hoax by the Biden administration to quietly transfer the funds to Iran at a later time.
If true, freezing the $6 billion will infuriate Iran and could block future U.S.-Iran negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program. This would be a good thing given the huge and dangerous concessions the Biden administration made to Iran this year in these negotiations. (For details, see my Sept. 3 and August 4 American Greatness articles on this issue).
Although freezing the $6 billion may be a positive sign, the Biden administration only made this move because it was forced to by congressional Democrats, especially in the Senate. Biden officials have given every indication that they want to continue to appease Iran to get a weak nuclear deal and placate Tehran before the 2024 election. Biden officials also want to avoid the resumption of tough oil sanctions on Iran that could cause gasoline prices in the United States to surge in 2024.
Ironically, instead of placating Iran, the Biden Administration’s appeasement was interpreted by Tehran as a sign of American weakness and probably led to the recent Hamas terrorist attack. It is therefore urgent that Congress demand on a bipartisan basis that the Biden Administration cease its foolhardy negotiations with Iran and reinstitute the Trump Administration’s Maximum Pressure campaign of severe sanctions and diplomatic isolation until the Iranian regime agrees to negotiate in good faith to end its nuclear program and funding terrorist organizations.
Fred Fleitz is vice-chair of the America First Policy Institute Center for American Security. He previously served as National Security Council chief of staff, CIA analyst and a House Intelligence Committee staff member.