Last July, when the Administration had been intent on closing a nuclear deal with Iran and selling it to a skeptical American Congress and public, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, emphatically stating that after the deal, Iran will continue to be denied access to the American banking system. “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,” he said.
And while testifying before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs in September, Acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Adam Szubin said, “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.”
There are a multitude of reasons why this is an excellent idea. For starters: Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and launders money to be sent all around the world to their terrorist network and terror proxies in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq , Bahrain, Yemen and Gaza.
Allowing Iran to participate in the US banking system will only add more dollars into their coffers to be transferred to their destabilizing and terrorist proxies. In February, the Financial Action Task Force, an inter-governmental body which is established to protect the international financial system from threats to its integrity, issued a public statement that “reaffirms its call on members and urges all jurisdictions to advise their financial institutions to give special attention to business relationships and transactions with Iran, including Iranian companies and financial institutions.”
Yet, because the avaricious Islamic Republic has been complaining that they are not getting as much cash as they want, as fast as they want, we are seeing signals that the Administration is back-pedaling on this, breaking another commitment made to Congress and the American people while trying to peddle the deal.
As of the last several days, the Administration is beginning to toss out trial balloons to the foreign policy world that sanctions are no longer desirable, and that Iranian banks can be connected to the American banking system. In a Washington Post piece this week, David Ignatius reported that Treasury Secretary Lew spoke at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, last week, making the case against the “overuse” of sanctions. Mr. Lew had made the argument that since the sanctions had been useful “to pressure bad actors to change their policy, we must be prepared to follow through with relief when we succeed.” Secretary Lew said “Since Iran has kept its end of the deal, it is our responsibility to uphold ours, in both letter and spirit.”
What evidence, however, is there that Iran has kept its end of the deal? According to Army General Lloyd Austin, the top U.S. military commander overseeing the Middle East, “there are a number of things that lead me to personally believe that…their behavior is not — they haven’t changed any course yet.” General Austin was addressing a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in early March.
Of greatest concern to General Austin and others, is the issue of Iran launching multiple missiles tests; the most recent ones had the words printed in both Farsi and in Hebrew that “Israel will be wiped out.”
That is not a very subtle message about the true intentions of the Iranian regime. So much for the Obama administration’s hope that the Iranian nuclear deal would lead “to a constructive period of engagement for the region that will actually stabilize it and make it easier to fight ISIL…and to do things that we need to do to reduce violence and pressures of the region,” as Secretary of State John Kerry had stated on August 11th of last year.
The Administration, of course argued that missile launching is outside the narrowly-defined scope of the nuclear deal. As James Kirby of the State Department said, “Such tests, if they are true, are not a violation of the JCPOA.” Mr. Kirby added, “If they are true, we have every intention of raising [it] with the UN Security Council.”
Of course, with Russia and China as Iran’s defenders in the Security Council, we know that this will be a hollow act. At worst, the UNSC will slap them on the wrists.
While the Administration was making its case for the deal, they had argued that all of Iran’s other nefarious behaviors, including Iran’s land grab throughout the region, its egregious human rights abuses and the rapid stepping up of executions of gays, dissidents and minorities, and its launching of missiles, would all be outside the framework of the agreement.
We all know that the intention of these missiles is to put a payload of nuclear material in their warhead.
And, as of now, the Obama administration is about to supplement the excess of 100 billion dollars in sanctions relief by giving the Iranians access to our financial system, thereby severely compromising the integrity of the US dollar and the worldwide financial system, and making it easier for Iran to further foment mischief around the globe.
It should be mentioned that this past Wednesday Senators Marco Rubio and Mark Kirk wrote a letter to Secretary Lew, asking for assurances that the United States will not work on behalf of Iran to enable Iran access to the US financial system or to dollar transactions outside the US financial system.
However, when it comes to the Iranians, there is no reason to trust any assurances made by this Administration. The threat of their balking from the deal seems to be holding the Administration over a barrel. Since the deal was agreed to, the Obama administration has virtually made itself into the attorneys representing the Islamic Republic, and apparently are now enabling it to participate in our financial sector.
The Iranians are apparently allowed to threaten a member state of the United Nations with nuclear annihilation, and defy the convention on the prevention of committing genocide.
Whoever will be occupying the oval office next January will be inheriting an empowered Iran, well on the path to obtaining nuclear weapons, and an Iran which may well be using American dollars in service of this unspeakable objective.
Sarah N. Stern is Founder and President of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, an unabashedly pro-Israel and pro-American think tank and policy institute in Washington, DC.