CATF Reports Apr. 8, 2016, 10:07am


Congress and the media have been up in arms this week over rumors that Iran could soon have access to the U.S. financial system and U.S. dollars. The rumors seem to have started over a very opaque general license, prepared by the U.S. Treasury department last week, which would allow offshore financial institutions to conduct foreign currency trades in dollars to support legitimate business with Iran. Details of the license, and the restrictions placed upon it by the Treasury, have yet to be made public. But even the hint of such a license sent members of Congress to the internet to express outrage. Responding to those rumors on her website, Ileana Ros-Lehtin (R-FL), Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, bellowed, “There is simply no justification for allowing Iran access to our financial system when we know the regime will use this as a means to launder its illicit cash and finance global terror operations.” However, Thomas Shannon, the Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, recently testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the rumors are false, and were fueled by the misinterpretation of a recent MSNBC interview in which Secretary of State John Kerry said, “It is fair for Iran to get what it deserves because it kept its part of the bargain to date with respect to the nuclear agreement.” According to Shannon, Kerry was referring to the fact that the U.S. should hold up their end of the deal by clarifying regulations and procedures for the transfer of assets to Iran. While Ros-Lehtin’s outrage was perhaps premature, her statement points to a general congressional concern over the limitations and permissive nature of the nuclear deal with Iran. Iran, according to Kerry, “will not have a nuclear weapon.” But what about their overt support for terrorist organizations? What about their blatant disregard for U.N. Security Council Resolutions?

Saying that Iran should have the financial access that they deserve, because they have kept up their part of the deal on the nuclear agreement, necessarily elides other crimes that Iran has committed with impunity. Last month, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard test-fired ballistic missiles, capable of reaching Israel, that were marked in Hebrew and read "Israel must be wiped off the Earth." And while the launch of ballistic missiles did not specifically jeopardize the terms of the nuclear deal, they were in direct violation of a U.N. resolution that called on Iran not to take part in ballistic missile activity. In addition to the U.N. resolution, in January, the U.S. treasury placed sanctions against Iranian persons and entities who work in support of the Iranian ballistic missiles program. After the test-fire, and speaking to an Israeli delegation, Vice President Joe Biden swore, that if Iran broke the terms of the nuclear deal, the U.S. “will act;" a cold comfort to a people being threatened with ballistic, not nuclear, missiles.

Reacting to Iran’s obvious disregard for U.N. resolutions, this week, the State Department supported further sanctions against Iran as long as the senate promises not to undermine the nuclear deal. Indeed the State Department seems to place Iranian threats into a hierarchy of importance. Thomas Shannon states, “We have several key objectives in our policy toward Iran: First, to ensure Iran’s adherence to the JCPOA, which will prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon and guarantees that its nuclear program remains exclusively peaceful. Second, to counter Iran’s support for terrorism and other destabilizing activities.” Terror activities and regional destabilizing factors like missile testing, financial backing of Hezbollah, and support for Houthi rebels in Yemen play second fiddle to the nuclear deal. It is no wonder, then, that Senators become outraged by what, at times, looks like straight up U.S. appeasement. Recently, President Obama claimed that Iran has followed the letter but not the spirit of the nuclear deal. He followed up this assertion by noting, “When they launch ballistic missiles with slogans calling for the destruction of Israel, that makes businesses nervous.” In arguing that Iran is making businesses nervous, he completely elided the fact that Iran is in direct violation of a U.N. resolution and currently facing U.S. Treasury sanctions. The nuclear deal takes precedence above all.

In a recent opinion piece published in the Wall Street Journal, Emirati Ambassador to the U.S. Yousef Al Otaiba warns the U.S. not to be blinded by the nuclear deal. Al Otaiba’s words pack a forceful punch as they outline all of the ways that Iran has worked to destabilize the Middle East since the dawn of the nuclear deal. In addition to the missile tests, Iran has: fired rockets close to a U.S. aircraft carrier, purchased over $8 billion in Russian arms and jets, sent a large cache of weapons to Houthi rebels to aid them in their rebellion against the U.N. backed Yemini government, provided explosive devices to extremist Shiite cells in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, and continues to provide military and financial support to Hezbollah to fight on the side of Bashar Assad in Syria. And of course, all of these actions, that violate the spirit if not the letter of the Iranian deal, have occurred in the short span of a few months’ time. To what extent do we become complicit in the destabilizing actions of Iran by placing the nuclear deal above all other concerns?

Iran has the largest ballistic arsenal in the Middle East.
Iran has the largest ballistic arsenal in the Middle East. | Reuters

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