Secretary of State Antony Blinken could not definitively answer Sunday if Iran is funding Hamas, saying instead that the would-be nuclear state “is engaged in a number of activities.” Hamas’s leader thanked Iran Friday for supplying military support, according to numerous reports.
After a mere hours following the Friday announcement of ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, a senior leader in Hamas thanked “the Islamic Republic of Iran; who did not hold back with money, weapons and technical support,” according to Jerusalem Post.
“The president reiterated strong support for Israel on Friday, but he’s coming under increased pressure from progressives,” George Stephanopoulos, the show’s anchor, said, referring to pro-Palestinian statements and resolutions by Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Mark Pocan and Sen. Bernie Sanders.
“What’s your response to that?” Stephanopoulos asked Blinken.
The secretary of state said that he prefers focusing on the policies and leaves the politics to others. He then proceeded to tout President Joe Biden’s “relentless focus on diplomacy” which he said has produced the ceasefire between Israel and Gaza.
Blinken also spoke in favor of the arms sale, arguing that Israel has the right to defend itself from “indiscriminate rocket attacks against civilians.”
“We’re committed to Israel’s defense,” he added.
The show’s host then brought up a May 13 letter by a group of Senate Republicans, in which the lawmakers urged Biden to stop offering sanction relief to Iran, citing its funding of Hamas.
“Do you believe that Iran is funding Hamas? And if they are, should the sanctions stay in place?,” Stephanopoulos asked Blinken.
“You know, George, Iran is engaged in a number of activities, including funding extremist groups, supporting terrorism more broadly, supporting very dangerous proxies that are taking destabilizing actions throughout the Middle East, proliferating weapons,” Blinken responded. (RELATED: ‘They’re Our Enemies’: Joe Lieberman Warns Biden Admin Against Pursuing Iran Nuclear Deal ‘At Any Price’)
The secretary of state also said that the first priority is to bring Iran back into “compliance with the nuclear agreement, the so-called JCPOA,” and that Former President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure … clearly did not get the result that we all seek.”
“The Iranians say the decision … to lift some of the sanctions has already been made. Is that true?” the host inquired.
Blinken avoided giving a straightforward answer to this question, too.
“We’re about to have our, I think, fifth round of discussions in Vienna with the Iranians. And what these discussions and talks … have done is they’ve clarified what each side needs to do in order to come back into compliance.”
“We know what sanctions would need to be lifted if they’re inconsistent with the nuclear agreement, but as important and indeed more important, Iran, I think, knows what it needs to do to come back into compliance on the nuclear side. And what we haven’t seen is whether Iran is ready and willing to make a decision to do what it has to do. That’s the test and we don’t yet have an answer,” Blinken stated.