Seemingly not satisfied with airlifting billions in US taxpayer cash on pallets to Tehran, AP reports that the Obama administration secretly sought to give Iran access to the U.S. financial system by sidestepping sanctions kept in place after the 2015 nuclear deal, despite repeatedly telling Congress and the public it had no plans to do so.
An investigation by Senate Republicans released Wednesday that exposes the Obama administration's politically-motivated actions to secretly offer help to Iran while withholding the truth from the American taxpayers about the extent of Washington's handouts to Tehran. As AP reports,
The report by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations revealed that under President Barack Obama, the Treasury Department issued a license in February 2016, never previously disclosed, that would have allowed Iran to convert $5.7 billion it held at a bank in Oman from Omani rials into euros by exchanging them first into U.S. dollars. If the Omani bank had allowed the exchange without such a license, it would have violated sanctions that bar Iran from transactions that touch the U.S. financial system.
While issuing the license was not illegal, AP reports that it still went above and beyond what the Obama administration was required to do under the terms of the nuclear agreement.
Under that deal, the U.S. and world powers gave Iran billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for curbing its nuclear program. Last month, President Donald Trump declared the U.S. was pulling out of what he described as a “disastrous deal.”
The license issued to Bank Muscat stood in stark contrast to repeated public statements from the Obama White House, the Treasury and the State Department, all of which denied that the administration was contemplating allowing Iran access to the U.S. financial system.
However, the Obama administration's effort only failed as they were unable to find a compliant bank. American banks - themselves afraid of running afoul of U.S. sanctions - declined to participate. The Obama administration approached two U.S. banks to facilitate the conversion, the report said, but both refused, citing the reputational risk of doing business with or for Iran.
Ironically, this 'scandal' appears just days after Obama proudy proclaimed that his administration had no scandals and Republicans, rightly so, are pointing out the hypocrisy. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, the subcommittee’s chairman, exclaimed:
“The Obama administration misled the American people and Congress because they were desperate to get a deal with Iran."
As a reminder, at the time, Iran hawks in the U.S., Israel and elsewhere argued that the United States was giving far too much to Tehran and that the windfall would be used to fund extremism and other troubling Iranian activity. It appears the hawks were right after all; and as AP reports, telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth was perhaps not entirely exhibited by the Obama administration...
Obama administration officials at the time assured concerned lawmakers that a general license wouldn’t be coming. But the report from the Republican members of the Senate panel showed that a draft of the license was indeed prepared, though it was never published.
And when questioned by lawmakers about the possibility of granting Iran any kind of access to the U.S. financial system, Obama-era officials never volunteered that the specific license for Bank Muscat in Oman had been issued two months earlier.
A former administration official told Fox News that the Senate subcommittee’s findings are inaccurate, asserting that Iran never had any improper access to the U.S. financial system.
“This specific license was in fulfillment of JCPOA commitments to give Iran access to pools of its money held overseas. It was aimed solely to allow the movement of Iran’s own funds stranded at an Omani bank into euros at a European bank, where Iran could then make use of them,” the former official explained.
According to the report, Iran is believed to have found other ways to access its money, possibly by exchanging it in smaller quantities through another currency.