Recent news reports suggest that President Obama is intent on making additional concessions to Iran, in contravention of promises made to Congress. The Associated Press reports:
The Obama administration may soon tell foreign governments and banks they can start using the dollar in some instances to facilitate business with Iran, officials told The Associated Press, describing an arcane tweak to U.S. financial rules that could prove significant for Tehran’s sanctions-battered economy.
While no decision is final, U.S. officials familiar with internal discussions said the Treasury Department is considering issuing a general license that would permit offshore financial institutions to access dollars for foreign currency trades in support of legitimate business with Iran, a practice that is currently illegal.
Several restrictions would apply, but such a license would reverse a ban that has been in place for several years and one the administration had vowed to maintain while defending last year’s nuclear deal to skeptical U.S. lawmakers and the public.
Republicans are understandably alarmed. Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) have written a letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, which reviews the state of play:
We are gravely alarmed by news reports suggesting the Administration is working to give Iran access to the U.S. financial system or to dollar transactions outside of the U.S. financial system. Any such efforts would benefit Iran’s financiers of international terrorism, human rights abuses, and ballistic missile threats while also ignoring the Treasury Department’s finding under Section 311 the USA PATRIOT Act that Iran’s entire financial sector is a jurisdiction of primary money laundering concern, and undermining ongoing calls by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) for countermeasures to protect international financial sectors from Iran’s terrorist financing. As co-authors of the Iran Terrorism and Human Rights Sanctions Act of 2016 (S.2726) and the Iran Ballistic Missile Sanctions Act of 2016 (S.2725), we believe the United States should instead increase pressure on the Iranian regime in order to hold it fully accountable for its threatening and destabilizing activities outside of the nuclear realm. . . .
Senior officials in the Treasury Department have repeatedly assured Congress that the Administration will not allow Iran direct or indirect access to the U.S. financial system, and we believe this prohibition to be prudent in light of the Iranian regime’s continued state sponsorship of terrorism, threatening ballistic missile activities, and egregious violations of human rights. In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 23, 2015, you said: “Iranian banks will not be able to clear U.S. dollars through New York, hold correspondent account relationships with U.S. financial institutions, or enter into financing arrangements with U.S. banks.” And in testimony before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs on September 17, 2015, Acting Under Secretary of the Treasury Adam Szubin assured lawmakers that “no Iranian banks can access the U.S. financial system; not to open an account, not to purchase a security, and not even to execute a dollarized transaction where a split seconds worth of business is done in a New York clearing bank.”
They then demand assurances “that the United States will not work on behalf of Iran to enable Iranian access to U.S. dollars elsewhere in the international financial system, including assisting Iran in gaining access to dollar payment systems outside the U.S. financial system.” They argue: “Such actions would fundamentally undermine our nation’s own reputation as a global leader on anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism, and also provide Iran legitimacy in the international financial system that it has not earned, especially as the regime in Tehran has not addressed its use of Iranian financial institutions and foreign financial institutions to conduct illegitimate transactions, nor its lack of anti-money laundering or countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) controls.”
Understand that this comes at a time that Iran has repeatedly violated United Nations resolutions concerning anti-ballistic missile tests, to which the administration has refused to respond in any meaningful way. In other words, Obama is continuing to reward Iran in violation of representations made to Congress at a time it should be increasing pressure on Iran for illegal missile tests, regional aggression, support for Islamist terrorism and gross human rights violations.
It is evident that the administration snookered Congress when it sold the deal. “The Obama administration promised there were no secret deals with Iran, promised it would be kept from using the American financial system, and promised we would stop Iran from moving ahead in building ballistic missiles,” says former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams (who has advised GOP presidential candidates and now supports Sen. Ted Cruz.). “Now we see the Iran deal allows Iran to build the missiles and it looks like all the financial pledges made to Congress were misleading. They ought to get the Treasury Secretary back up there and read him his testimony from last year. It looks like the administration was willing to say anything at all to get the votes it needed. The Iran deal is actually far worse than it looked even to its harshest critics last year.”
This latest revelation is one more bit of evidence that no deal would have been better than the deal the administration made with Iran. In desperation to save a porous deal that paves the way to nuclear breakout for Iran, the administration is in essence condoning increasingly aggressive Iranian conduct and going above and beyond what it agreed to in helping to rebuild Iran’s economy. It is leaving the next president with fewer and fewer tools with which to check Iranian aggression, making it far more likely that a President Clinton or President Cruz will face the stark choice between military action and a nuclear-armed Iran with an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) delivery system. (Goodness knows what Donald Trump, who hasn’t bothered to learn anything about anything, would do. One shudders at the thought that he and his grab bag of nutty, inexperienced advisers would be making decisions on such critical matters.)
It seems that the time has passed for letter-writing. If Democrats, who enabled the making of an awful deal with Iran by filibustering a vote of disapproval, cannot bring themselves to agree to strong bipartisan sanctions measures, then Republicans in the House and Senate should proceed without them. A source at a pro-Israel organization remarks: “This apparent flagrant concession is a test for those who supported the deal while asserting that they would remain vigilant against any further concessions to the Iranian regime. We will soon know whether these ‘vigilant’ deal supporters were sincere as this new concession will enrich the regime and finance Iranian aggression, terrorism and ballistic missile development.” Don’t hold your breath.
The Democrats can filibuster again if they see fit. The president can veto if he chooses. Hillary Clinton can explain why the administration’s ongoing appeasement of Iran is wise. The voters can then have a clear choice in November as to whether they want to continue the Democrats’ capitulation to Iran.