Congressional hearings have revealed that that the Obama administration may have given Iran over $33 billion in cash and gold. Over the period Jan. 2014 to July 2015, Iran was paid $700 million every month from funds “previously frozen by US sanctions,” though it remains obscure how such payments did not violate the sanctions regime.
In testimony before the House Financial Services Committee last week, Mark Dubowitz, executive director at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, questioned the total amount of the payments made by the administration to an enemy country.
In total, “Iran may have received as much as $33.6 billion in cash or in gold and other precious metals,” Dubowitz disclosed.
New questions about these payments are emerging following confirmation from top Obama administration officials on Thursday that it was forced to pay Iran $1.7 billion in cash prior to the release of several U.S. hostages earlier this year. The administration insisted that cash had to be used for this payment.
Top administration officials were adamant that the cash payments were the best way to ensure that Iran got immediate access to this money due to its ongoing difficulty accessing international funds still sanctioned by the West.
No doubt. But why would “ensur[ing] that Iran got immediate access to this money” be in the interest of the United States? The State Department has since January 1984 designated Iran a State Sponser of Terrorism, which is therefore subject to restrictions on foreign aid, a ban on military exports and sales, controls over exports of “dual use” items, and financial restrictions. Sending pallets of cash and gold is not some clever way to circumvent the sanctions. It is a violation of the sactions.
According to former Pentagon official Michael Rubin:
There’s no reason it needed to be paid now. After all, successive administrations, both Democratic and Republican, have delayed payments so as to avoid funding Iranian terrorism,” Rubin said. “Likewise, if the United States freezes accounts linked to al Qaeda or Hamas, releasing it and saying, ‘It’s their money anyway,’ would not be a tenable explanation. Cash payments are highly irregular.
Monthly cash payments to Iran may have been part of the “confidence-building” measures agreed to by Iranian-born Advisor to the president, Valerie Jarrett. As reported at the time, Jarrett began quietly lifting sanctions against the terrorist state almost immediately after Obama’s re-election, with the eventual aim of a nuclear Iran. According to a 2013 Daily Beast article by Eli Lake:
The Obama administration began softening sanctions on Iran after the election of Iran’s new president in June , months before the current round of nuclear talks in Geneva or the historic phone call between the two leaders in September.
While those negotiations now appear on the verge of a breakthrough the key condition for Iran—relief from crippling sanctions—began quietly and modestly five months ago.
A review of Treasury Department notices reveals that the U.S. government has all but stopped the financial blacklisting of entities and people that help Iran evade international sanctions since the election of its president, Hassan Rouhani, in June.
No accomodation is too dangerous to the US and its allies, no payoff too costly, no deception too treasonous for this president.