Flush from victory after securing the release of four American prisoners from Iran, Secretary of State John Kerry played right into the hands of congressional Republicans still furious over the landmark nuclear deal with the Middle Eastern nation.
In an interview with CNCBC from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the nation’s top diplomat said he couldn’t rule out that some of the money Iran is due to receive in sanctions relief would end up in the pockets of groups the U.S. and other countries consider to be terrorist organizations.
“I think that some of it will end up in the hands of the IRGC or other entities, some of which are labeled terrorists,” Kerry said, referring to Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
“You know, to some degree, I'm not going to sit here and tell you that every component of that can be prevented,” he added. “But I can tell you this: Right now, we are not seeing the early delivery of funds going to that kind of endeavor at this point in time.”
One of the GOP’ chief criticisms of the nuclear deal with Iran is that Tehran would receive $150 billion in sanctions relief which could be used to fund terrorist groups or efforts aimed at further destabilizing the already volatile region.
That dollar amount was repeated so much by lawmakers and Republican White House hopefuls, including frontrunner Donald Trump, that Kerry was forced to respond earlier this week, saying the figure would likely be closer to $50 billion after Iran met its international debts.
Thursday’s concession, however slight, sent the GOP into a rage, and party representatives wasted no time linking it to the 2016 election.
“Secretary Kerry admitted what we suspected all along – that the nuclear deal Hillary Clinton spearheaded with Iran is a giant stimulus bill for radical Islamic terrorists,” Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus said in a statement.
The former secretary of State’s defense of the nuclear accord “is another reminder of the failed foreign policy she would continue if elected,” he added.
“House Democrats have a simple decision to make: join with Republicans to block sanctions relief that will aid terrorists, or continue to support President Obama and his failed foreign policy,” a spokesman for the National Republican Campaign Committee said in a statement.
An aide to House Speaker Paul Ryan (WI) put out a release ripping Kerry.
“With all due respect, Mr. Secretary, tell us something we don’t know,” the release said.
Kerry’s statement likely also will add new fuel to the fire that the $1.7 billion the U.S. gave to Iran, amid the prisoner swap that saw the American freed for seven Iranians, was actually a ransom payment and not at all linked a financial dispute dating back to the 1980s.
The White House has adamantly denied the charge, but that won’t stop it being repeated over and over again, much like the supposed $150 billion in sanctions relief, as Election Day draws closer and Republicans look to hammer Democrats on the issue of national security.