Obama’s Iranian Cash Laundromat

I was wrong! In early 2013, my article “The American Babe In The Iranian Wood,” noted, “President Obama and his administration’s incomprehensible handling of Iran, as clueless, overconfident and counterproductive; not a good recipe for dealing with a sophisticated and determined adversary.”  

As it turned out, and as every new expose of yet another secret deal shows, President Obama was anything but a clueless Babe.  The President who initiated the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Actionaka The Iran Deal, is a sophisticated politician who deliberately and elaborately misled the American people about his concessions to the mullahs, accommodating their nuclear agenda and giving them some $150 billions, purportedly to help strengthen their economy. All the while acknowledging that “some” of that money will pay for the regime’s military expansion and even to fund their terrorist activities.  Why was the U.S. President so keen on building up his nation’s sworn enemy’s nuclear capabilities? What was his motive in empowering the mullahs and fueling Iran’s intervention in and destabilization of the Middle East and beyond? 

Also, where were the United States’ partners to the Iran Deal? The United Kingdom, Russia, France, and China -- plus Germany, and the European Union (EU) participated in the negotiations and signed on. Why? 

While the prospect of opening the Iranian market to business was tempting, why would any country, especially with geographic proximity to Iran, be interested in facilitating the belligerent Islamic Republic’s development of nuclear weapons? Has greed overcome existential fear? Or perhaps by the time the deal was announced Iran’s uranium enrichment program was close to or already a fait accompli. In that case, why not partake in the Obama administration’s magic show and reap real profits afterward?   Perhaps this can explain why most of the murky details were not leaked.  

In the years leading up to the agreement, the President never failed to threaten the tightening of sanctions on Iran. But at least since early 2013, Iran has received billions of dollars in sanctions relief as incentives to attend negotiations with the United States and others in Geneva; this despite the fact that from March 2012, until January 2016, when the U.S. lifted the sanctions, Iranian banks had no access to the Belgium-based SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) system. So how did the regime access the billions of dollars it was given? Were those payments also sent in bundled cash of non-U.S. currencies on chartered flights, under cover of darkness, as the administration’s $400 million ransom?  

The President not only denied the cash ransom delivery to Iran, but went on to claim: “The reason that we had to give the cash is precisely because we were so strict in maintaining sanctions, and we do not have a banking relationship with Iran that we couldn’t send them a check and we could not wire the money.” Thus it was not surprising to hear that additional $1.3 billion in settlement were sent in a similar manner to Iran.

The news nixed the provisions of a new congressional Republicans’ bill to stop further settlement payments. And for PR purposes, the proposed bill also demands that Iran “returns the $1.7 billion to the U.S. and pays the American terrorism victims.” Surely no one expects that to happen.

Take for example the payments paid by the Administration to Iran for transferring goods to and from Afghanistan through the Iranian Persian Gulf port of Bandar Abbas, since early 2013. That’s when the Administration decided to ignore the sanctions and instead of shipping the goods through Pakistan, it chose the Iranian port. This became such a lucrative business that Iran has opened another port on the Gulf of Oman at Chabahar to further facilitate transshipment through Iran. How did Iran access the U.S. payments? 

Soon after the Iran deal was announced, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s began complaining that Iran’s banks had difficulties accessing international markets because some sanctions were not lifted  - due to its sponsorship of international terrorism.  In response, the Obama Administration publicly chose to circumvent U.S. the sanctions and its anti-money laundering laws to help Iran’s access to the international banking system.

The U.S. has strict federal Anti-Money Laundering laws, requiring “banks and certain other financial institutions, which tend to have extra-territorial effect, through requirements for US banks to control their relationships with correspondent and shell banks to prevent money laundering.” Nonetheless, the Administration publicly suggested allowing Iran “access to U.S. dollars through offshore clearinghouses.”  Was this a new arrangement or the first the public heard about such an arrangement?  

What we already know is enough to cause major concerns. But will we ever find out how much money was Iran given? Probably not. We only hope to not find out the hard way what it was given for.