U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken admitted that both Israeli and U.S. intelligence agencies did not pick up on any warnings or indications that Saturday’s widespread attacks on Israeli territory were imminent. Blinken was also asked by Meet The Press host Kristen Welker also asked about a recent prisoner exchange in which the Iranian regime was given access to roughly $6 billion in funds.
“Mr. Secretary, do you acknowledge that both Israeli intelligence officials and U.S. intelligence officials were caught off guard here?” Welker asked.
“This is an attack that I don’t think anyone saw coming in the immediate,” Blinken admitted.
Welker then followed up by asking if failure to detect an attack constituted an intelligence failure and whether Blinken would acknowledge it as such. “We will have plenty of time to, the Israelis will have plenty of time to look into that. All of us will have time to look into that. The focus now has to be on making sure that Israel has what it needs to deal with this attack and to make sure that its citizens are safe and secure. attack and to make sure that its citizens are safe and secure. That’s the entire focus,” Blinken said.
Welker also asked Blinken about the recent prisoner exchange with Iran, which granted the Iranian regime access to roughly $6 billion in funds. The Biden Administration has faced intense scrutiny in the wake of the attacks, as Iran has long supported and funded Hamas and other jihadist groups in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
“What do you say about the argument that money is fungible, so Iran may have known this money is coming and used other funds to help fund this attack that happened?” asked the Meet The Press host.
Blinken did not answer directly, instead pointing out that Iran has always been a leading state sponsor of terrorism in the region.
“Iran has unfortunately always used and focused its funds on supporting terrorism, on supporting groups like Hamas, and it’s done that when there have been sanctions, it’s done that when there haven’t been sanctions, and it’s always prioritized that,” he said. “And again, I come back to the proposition that from these funds have always been under the law available to Iran to use that from these funds have always been under the law available to Iran to use for humanitarian purposes.”
The conflict’s overall death toll is approaching 1,000 as 600 Israeli civilians and military personnel have been confirmed dead. Palestinian authorities have confirmed that at least 300 militants and civilians have been killed in Israeli counterattacks.
Blinken also confirmed Sunday that the State Department is working to confirm the very real possibility that American citizens have been killed in the attacks. He also confirmed reports that an unknown number of Americans may have been kidnapped and transported to the Gaza Strip.