In case you were just enjoying the weekend with your family and not listening to the news, the world changed over the past 48 hours.
The United States has now officially become a Banana Republic.
In sweeping moves that gave the lie to repeated assertions by Secretary of State John Kerry that there would be no “comprehensive” deal with Iran, the United States on Saturday gave Iran a clean bill of nuclear health, lifted sanctions on more than 400 Iranian government entities and individuals, and swapped U.S. citizens held hostage by Iran for Iranian nationals convicted of violating U.S. export control laws.
There was so much news over the weekend that the media has had a hard time keeping up. But not your government, which has been beavering away so they could trade away our sovereignty, our legal system, and our national security interests at the stroke of a pen.
The Treasury Department has been working for months to draft a package of implementing regulations for Obama’s ill-conceived nuclear deal. The thicket of U.S. sanctions on Iran has become so dense over the years that Treasury had to post a separate web page with a guide to sanctions relief, which was split among eight separate statements.
My favorite was a list of 400 Iranian state entities now removed from U.S. sanctions. I had been tracking many of those companies for years.
With a stroke of the pen Iranian banks, including the Central Bank (which I would call the money-launderer-in-chief), have returned to the international financial system, and once again can do business with the United States or move dollars around the world. Already on Sunday, the Central Bank announced that it had reconnected to the international SWIFT wire transfer network, from which it had been banned under sanctions.
What this means is that Iran is now free to move the $100 billion or so released from blocking orders in Japan, South Korea, India, China, and Turkey, and move it anywhere it pleases, including to terrorist networks. It can also use the money to buy weapons, ballistic missile parts, or nuclear-related equipment, as long as they don’t originate in the United States.
That surely will be welcome news to the millions of Iranians who are unemployed, and to the thousands of political prisoners sitting in Iranian jails, who really, really want new toilets. And of course, all that money available for nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles will hearten Iran’s neighbors, Saudi Arabia and Israel.
Also freed from sanctions is the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL), put on the U.S. list of terrorist-supporting entities because it has repeatedly been caught moving weapons and explosives to terrorists. And, of course, Iran Air, which can now graduate from moving terrorists and intelligence operatives under cover of on board air marshals, to becoming the best friend of the European Airbus consortium as it seeks to purchase 114 Airbus jetliners.
Over at the Justice Department, U.S. government lawyers have been quietly negotiating with a variety of different district courts so they could spring four convicted criminals and three men awaiting trial on the magic day.
The national media is calling it a “prisoner exchange.” But the Iranian regime made clear it was not when they refused to release Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi as part of the deal. An English language dispatch from the government-run FarsNews website explained, “Namazi remains in jail for his charges are financial, and not political.”
In other words, the five Americans released on Saturday by Tehran were hostages, whereas the seven Iranians released in the United States were charged with violating the U.S. criminal code.
The crooks won.
Obama granted rare, pre-trial pardons to three of the men who were indicted earlier this year in Houston for illegally procuring high-tech equipment for Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. One of them, Bahram Mecanic, was a repeat offender, and had been busted twice before as an Iranian procurement agent.
Obama commuted the sentences of three others who were already in jail, and ordered federal prosecutors in Vermont to drop charges against the seventh man, Nima Golestaneh, who was extradited from Turkey and pled guilty in December to hacking U.S. defense contractors to steal sensitive software.
And it gets better. The U.S. also agreed to either drop prosecution or to revoke international arrest warrants, known as “Red Notices,” against another fourteen Iranians wanted for illegally procuring U.S. weapons spare parts or high technology for Iran’s missile and nuclear weapons programs.
Because, as we now know, Iran has no intention of building nuclear weapons and their nuclear program is entirely peaceful. Obama told me so.
No one can argue with a President who wins freedom for hostages-- unless of course his name is Ronald Reagan and he is a Republican.
But Obama missed a great opportunity to use the tremendous leverage a decade of intensifying sanctions had bought him, and insisted that Iran release the hostages in exchange for the nuclear agreement.
Instead, he showed the world that the United States has become a Banana Republic, where the rule of law is subjected to the whims of the Leader.
One American did not benefit from the President’s benevolence: former FBI agent, Bob Levinson. Is it because Mr. Levinson is Jewish that the President decided not to insist that he be included in this diabolical exchange?
Sources close to the Levinson family told me they think Levinson’s fate has been sealed for some time. “He was kidnapped by the IRGC [Islamic Revolution Guards Corps] and held in an IRGC jail, and the White House has known that for some time.”
But don’t expect this White House to move heaven and hell to get back Mr. Levinson -- or his remains.
“Why would they endanger their love fest with Iran over Rob?” this family friend close to the negotiations with the Obama administration told me. “Obama and his people don’t like government people to begin with. So their thinking is, what was he doing there in the first place?”