The Anatomy of a Deception
The media and much of the Republican establishment have caught on to only part of a story about a shady deal that the Obama administration made with the Islamic Republic of Iran, a deal that took a rather labyrinthine and bizarre form. What they are talking about is bad enough, which involves paying a ransom for hostages, opening up Americans to kidnappings and imprisonment whenever they travel abroad.
The part of the story that they are missing, however, is that what the administration did was highly illegal, according to statutes we still have on our books.
On August 3rd, a story broke that an unmarked cargo plane loaded with $400 million in foreign currency landed in Tehran as part of a United States payment to Iran. Coincidentally this happened the very same day that three American hostages were released.
The next day President Obama took to the airwaves, and emphatically stated, “We do not pay ransom for hostages. We didn’t here, and we won’t in the future.” He went on to describe how he has met with various American families whose loved ones are being held hostage around the globe, and that we simply do not pay ransom because that would encourage more hostage taking in the future. "Those families know we have a policy that we don't pay ransom," Obama said. "And the notion that we would somehow start now, in this high-profile way, and announce it to the world, even as we're looking in the faces of other hostage families whose loved ones are being held hostage, and saying to them we don't pay ransom, defies logic,” President Obama added.
However, Washington is abuzz with the news from the Thursday, August 18th Wall Street Journal that an Iranian cargo plane from Iran Air went on a trip to Geneva where pellets were loaded onto it, with foreign currencies including Swiss francs and euros. One of the hostages, Pastor Saeed Abedini, had said that he was kept waiting at Mehrabad Airport in Tehran on January 16th, until the morning of January 17th, and “was told by a senior Iranian intelligence official that their departure was contingent upon the movements of a second airplane,” according to reports.
Another aspect of the story is that Iran Air is the official airplane used by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to transfer weapons and manpower to Syria to fight for President Bashar Assad’s brutal dictatorship and to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Iran Air had been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department for ferrying weapons and supplies until January 16th of this year, the very same date these foreign currencies were being ferried to Tehran.
Interestingly, January 16th was also “Implementation Day” of the agreement.
Why did President Obama feel it was necessary to deceive the American public about this and to transmit the funds in such a convoluted and bizarre way?
For starters, Americans have a well-warranted distrust for Iran. This began with the 1979 Khomeini Revolution, when Iranian revolutionaries stormed the American embassy and took embassy officials hostage. It continued through the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon, to that of the Khobar Towers in 1996, and to the IEDs found with Farsi imprints on them that sent American servicemen and women back home in body bags or with missing limbs.
A story in The Hill from February 17, 2016 reports that only 3 in 10 Americans approve of the nuclear deal with Iran.
The second and much more compelling reason is because what Obama did is patently illegal, and the Obama administration was aware of that. In fact, while arguing for the deal, they had reassured a skeptical Congress that these statutes would remain on the books.
The reason that they had to reassure Congress is simply because it is a well-known fact that Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. The State Department’s most recent report on State Sponsors of Terrorism reads:
“Designated as a State Sponsor of terrorism in 1984, Iran continued on its terrorist-related activity in 2015, including support for Hizballah, Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza, and various groups in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. In 2015, Iran increased its assistance to Iraqi Shia terrorist groups…Iran used the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF)-to implement foreign policy goals, provide cover for intelligence operations, and create instability in the Middle East. The IRGC-QF is Iran’s primary mechanism for cultivating and supporting terrorists abroad.”
Andrew McCarthy, a former U.S. prosecutor for the southern district of New York, argues in a recent National Review story that the financial sanctions, which were put in place in the 1980s because of Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism, still remain in place today. In fact, while making the case to support the JCPOA, Obama constantly promised Congress that the Iran-related terrorism sanctions would remain in place, and, (again), on January 16th, the U.S. Treasury Department reaffirmed that commitment. As Mr. McCarthy writes, “Treasury’s published guidance regarding Iran states that, in general, ‘the clearing of U.S. dollar -- or other currency -- denominated transactions through the U.S. financial system or involving a U.S. person remain prohibited[.]’”
And on the afternoon of August 18th, because of that morning’s Wall Street Journal story, State Department spokesman John Kirby admitted that this was ransom money.
This obvious deception is somewhat emblematic of the entire way this nefarious deal was made between the Obama administration and the Islamic Republic of Iran, including running to the United Nations to have the deal enshrined in international law before going back to Congress and having it approved. The Obama administration refused to acknowledge that this was a treaty, and required 2/3 of the Senate to ratify it. Instead, they dubbed it as “political commitments” and never even allowed the Senate to vote on approving it, even as required of a regular bill, which would require 2/3 to reject it.
The deception was gradual and implemental.
I will never forget sitting in the audience at the AIPAC Policy Conference in 2007, and listening to then Senator Barack Obama pledge that “the world must work to stop Iran’s uranium enrichment program,” amidst rapturous applause.
According to a piece in the Washington Free Beacon, since 2008 until April 2015, Obama promised no less than 28 times that he would prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.
And as soon as he entered office in 2009, U.S. secret negotiations immediately began with Iran, with Oman acting as the intermediary.
David Samuels revealed in his May 5, 2016 profile of Ben Rhodes in the New York Times Magazine that the Obama administration created “an echo chamber,” in which a crop of newly minted experts acted as cheerleaders, and ventriloquist dummies “were saying things that validated what we were giving them to say,” according to Rhodes.
The Obama administration must have known that no matter who was elected president of Iran, Khamenei and the ruling mullahs had the final say on everything. Yet, when Rouhani was elected, President Obama used his bully pulpit to further the myth that Rouhani was a moderate, and that therefore we had a small “window of opportunity” for a nuclear agreement.
Yes, we now have a nuclear agreement with Iran. And Iran now has an internationally condoned path towards a nuclear bomb, if they wait 10 to 15 years, plus it is permitted to operate more than 5,000 nuclear centrifuges, plus another 1000 in Fordow, (the rest are put in storage but not dismantled), plus, according to the Congressional Research Service, at least 120 billion dollars in unfrozen assets, plus 1.7 billion dollars which the administration claims is part of a pre-1979 deal we had made with Iran that was cancelled after the Islamic revolution, (of which the $400 million of ransom money is simply a part), plus an estimated $12 billion relief from the JPOA, plus lucrative deals with Boeing and other companies that Secretary of State John Kerry has been globetrotting, encouraging international businesses to participate in, as well as an enhanced capacity to produce weapons grade uranium, and a replacement of outdated centrifuges with more modern ones, which were all negotiated as part of the agreement.
Fred Fleitz, a former CIA analyst who now works for the Center for Security Policy, has written in his brilliant new book, Obamabomb, A Dangerous and Growing National Security Fraud, “The JCPOA was negotiated and sold to the America people by the Obama administration with unprecedented deception, dishonesty and stealth. The United States made indefensible concessions because of the obsession by Obama officials to strike a legacy nuclear agreement for President Obama.” Mr. Fleitz argues that at best, the agreement will leave Iran with an industrial-sized nuclear program, with the world’s international blessings. He feels, however, that the more likely scenario will be that Iran will use the provisions of the nuclear agreement to continue to produce greater amounts of weapons grade uranium in a much shorter time, with advanced, more modern centrifuges.
This deal is perhaps the worst example of international diplomacy in history; with none other than the world’s leading state sponsor of Islamic terrorism, at a time when the free Western world is being plagued a scourge of exactly such terrorism. The Obama administration must be aware of that. Otherwise, why would they go to such extraordinary lengths to deceive the American people?
And as the sun rises in the morning, the government of Iran has already abducted more Americans to hold for future ransoms.
Sarah N. Stern in 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.