Former Vice President Mike Pence (R), a 2024 presidential candidate, on Sunday criticized President Biden for his strategic positioning on Iran and suggested the administration’s policies have “set the conditions” for the Hamas attacks in Israel on Saturday.
In an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Pence pointed to the recent U.S.-Iran hostage exchange, which will unfreeze $6 billion of Iranian funds in foreign accounts which had been blocked because of sanctions.
The Biden administration has said that Iran has pledged to only use the funds for humanitarian purposes, but Iranian leaders have said they would decide what was best for their people. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday said those funds remain unspent in a frozen account in the weeks after the prisoner exchange was conducted.
“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 by Hamas against Israel,” Pence said.
But the Biden administration has maintained unwavering support for Israel in the wake of an attack by Hamas on Saturday that took Israel by surprise. The prisoner exchange freed Americans who had been jailed in Iran under harsh conditions for years.
Still, Pence laid heavy criticism on the White House.
“There’s no question in my mind that Iran is behind, has subsidized, has approved and in the last day has even applauded this extraordinary terrorist attack by Hamas against Israel,” he said.
U.S. officials said Sunday they could not yet determine if Iran was behind the attack.
Pence also criticized the foreign policy positions of some of his fellow GOP presidential candidates, including former President Trump, biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“But I also believe 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. Look, what happened in Ukraine was an unprovoked invasion by Russia. What happened this weekend was an unprovoked invasion by Hamas into Israel,” Pence continued in the interview.
“And I really believe now more than ever, both the debate within the Republican Party and the debate within America is whether or not we’re going to once again stand without apology as the leader of the free world, as the arsenal of democracy,” he continued.