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On Thursday, President Barack Obama finally dared to criticize Iran concerning the nuclear deal his administration closed last year with the Islamic Republic.
Following the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, Obama said that despite its compliance with the agreement (called JCPOA), Iran was undermining the spirit of the deal.
“Iran so far has followed the letter of the agreement, but the spirit of the agreement involves Iran also sending signals to the world community and businesses that it is not going to be engaging in a range of provocative actions that are going to scare businesses off,” Obama said adding, “when they launch ballistic missiles with slogans calling for the destruction of Israel, that makes businesses nervous.”
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In Israel, few could appreciate Obama’s new worries about Iran. Launching ballistic missiles with slogans calling for the destruction of Israel makes the Israelis nervous, and they would expect the President of the United States to have similar feelings.
Instead, Obama seemed to be worried about Al Khamenei’s complaints regarding the lack of business deals and foreign investment following the lifting of sanctions. The Supreme Leader last month said Iranian banking trade and various kinds of businesses that require financial services were still facing problems.
Obama also denied multiple media reports that suggested the administration was now considering lifting new sanctions that were not part of the JPCOA. Media reported the U.S. would be willing to grant Iranian companies and banks access to the American financial system.
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The administration sold the deal to Congress, promising these non-nuclear sanctions would be kept in general, and more specifically that Iran would never be given access to the U.S. financial system.
But Obama now said the reports did not reflect the approach his administration was taking.
“It is not necessary that we take the approach of them going through dollar transactions,” he told reporters. “It is possible for them to work through European financial institutions as well.”
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Apparently Obama thought he could fool the American public, but the same day Eric Lorber, writing for the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, showed the President was intellectually dishonest.
Lorber wrote the U.S. Treasury is considering issuing, “a general license permitting offshore dollar clearing for transactions involving Iran, a variation on what was permitted prior to November 2008 when Iran was allowed to conduct “U-turn” transactions – transactions that start and end in foreign banks but briefly transit the U.S. financial system to be converted into dollars. Given that Treasury’s guidance about sanctions relief under the JCPOA specifically says that U-turn transactions remain prohibited – and administration officials testified before Congress that Iran would not have direct access to the U.S. financial system – the administration is looking offshore.
Indeed, Treasury now appears poised to permit U.S. banks to provide dollars for an offshore clearing facility overseen by a foreign government or foreign bank. When transmitting payments between Iranian companies and non-U.S. companies, the foreign financial institution would use this offshore clearing facility to convert the transaction into dollars. According to unnamed administration officials, the license would permit such transactions as long as: 1) no Iranian banks are involved in the transactions; 2) no Iranian rials enter into the transaction at the dollar clearing facility; and 3) the payment does not start or end with U.S. dollars.
The issue led Democratic and Republican lawmakers from both chambers to write letters, blasting the new sanction relief.
Democratic House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer wrote to express his concerns that “the Administration had indicated that there would be no further concessions beyond those specifically negotiated and briefed to Congress. I do not support granting Iran any new relief without a corresponding concession.”
“Only when Iranian banks fully absolve themselves of involvement in terror financing and missile procurement, when Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps ceases its saber-rattling against America’s allies, and Iran’s leadership ends its despicable threats against Israel and the Jewish people – only then, perhaps, should the international community consider additional steps with regard to Iran’s reintegration into the global economy beyond concessions pursuant to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” Hoyer declared.
Another controversy about Iran’s behavior after the implementation of the JCPOA erupted when Reuters reported Washington is no longer labeling Iranian missile launches a “violation” of a UNSCR resolution 2231 that locked in the nuclear deal.
Obama’s ambassador at the U.N., Samantha Power, last week stopped short of the old administration position that Iranian ballistic missile launches are violations of the UN ban. Several administration officials had earlier testified before Congress that the ban on those tests would not be lifted.
Power’s omission led to a response by Rep. Mike Pompeo and two of his fellow Republican House members, Pete Roskam and Lee Zeldin. In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry they wrote that “The seeming American refusal to name these Iranian tests as violations is in direct conflict with the administration’s earlier commitments.”
Today, lawmakers in Washington started to question the sincerity of the Obama administration and suggested the administration deliberately misled Congress last summer and fall. Others now say the deal is apparently still open, and this has led to more Iranian demands about the additional sanction relief.
Rep. Mike Pompeo said, “When multiple officials — including Secretary Kerry, Secretary Lew, and Ambassador Mull — testify in front of Members of Congress, we are inclined to believe them. However, the gap between their promises on the Iran nuclear deal and today’s scary reality continues to widen. We are now trying to determine whether this was intentional deception on the part of the administration or new levels of disturbing acquiescence to the Iranians.”
“Congress is believed to be investigating what insiders described as a range of areas in which administration officials may have understated the breadth of concessions made to the Islamic Republic when trying to persuade lawmakers to sign off on the final deal,” Adam Kredo wrote in an article for the Washington Free Beacon
He also reported that Iranian officials are again “undermining the spirit of the deal” as Obama calls it. Iran has made clear the past few days its ballistic missile program will be expanded.
Iranian FM Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter: “We have always said we will continue with developing our defense capacity, and the defense equipment has nothing to do with chemical weapons. The missiles are only for defensive purposes, and we have not invaded any country, neither we will do so in the future.”
Remember what Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu said during his address to Congress on the issue of the nuclear agreement and Iran’s ballistic missile program?
The ballistic missiles Iran develops and test fires are meant to deliver nuclear weapons “to the far-reach corners of the earth, including every part of the United States.”
Omri Ceren contributed to this report.