The Obama administration sought to allow Iran access, however brief, to the USA financial system following the 2015 nuclear deal despite public assurances it would refrain from doing so, a Republican-led Senate investigation said Wednesday.
Obama administration officials privy to the details of the Iran deal dismissed the Republicans' report and accusations that the administration misled Congress about the license. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who chairs the Senate panel that conducted the investigation. "Still, it went above and beyond what the Obama administration was required to do under the terms of the nuclear agreement, in which the USA and world powers gave Iran billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for curbing its nuclear program".
As the Obama administration pondered how to address Iran's complaints in 2016, reports in The Associated Press and other media outlets revealed that the USA was considering additional sanctions relief, including issuing licenses that would allow Iran limited transactions in dollars.
The report and the former officials' response highlight how controversial the Iran deal continues to be, even after President Donald Trump's May 8 decision to leave the worldwide pact. They appealed to the U.S. on Wednesday to exempt them from sanctions as they continue to do business with Tehran.
"Yikes", one former Treasury official told colleagues in an email, as described by the report. The present sanctions will soon become unenforceable, producing an economic windfall for Iran whether or not the United States accepts the agreement.
The report focuses on $5.7 billion from Iranian oil sales that were frozen in Oman's Bank Muscat in that country's currency, the rial.
President Donald Trump exhibits a signed Presidential Memorandum after delivering an announcement on the Iran nuclear deal from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White Home, Might 8, 2018, in Washington. Even Secretary Lew testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in July 2015 that, "Iranian banks will not be able to clear USA dollars through NY, hold correspondent account relationships with US financial institutions, or enter into financing arrangements with USA banks". And the Obama Treasury Department's issuing of a license to allow Iran to convert $5.7 billion it held at a bank in Oman was not illegal.
Because the clock counts down till US secondary sanctions are snapped again into place, European nations should weigh whether or not doing enterprise with Iran is price dropping entry to the USA monetary system or dealing with US sanctions penalties. Treasury officials concluded that the transaction was legal. "For example, during a [pro-Iran] roadshow in London in March 2015 with representatives from 10 major global financial institutions, the head of the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Asset Compliance [OFAC] assured attendees that '95 percent of the time OFAC sees an apparent violation it results in a simple warning letter or no enforcement action, '" according to minutes of these meetings. As a part of the nuclear deal, the USA agreed to carry secondary sanctions that focused different nations or establishments doing enterprise with Iran, its oil trade, and extra - but it surely stored in place most of its personal sanctions, together with blocking Iran from US banks. This would have sidestepped US sanctions still in place. "The Administration has not been and is not planning to grant Iran access to the US financial system".
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Granting the license was not unlawful, however the brand new disclosure provides extra ammunition to critics of President Obama who say the Iran nuclear deal gave an excessive amount of to that nation's regime, permitting it to fund a brand new wave of destabilizing exercise within the area.
The Administration was crystal clear to Congress on this point. "This specific license was in fulfillment of JCPOA commitments to give Iran access to pools of its money held overseas".
"Sanctions are a vital foreign policy tool, and the US government should never work to actively undermine their enforcement or effectiveness", said a statement from Portman.
Obama administration officials said the decision to grant the license had been made in line with the spirit of the deal, which included allowing Iran to regain access to foreign reserves that had been off-limits because of the sanctions. "It was aimed exclusively to allow the movement of Iran's own funds stranded at an Omani bank into euros at a European bank, where Iran could then make use of them".
Under the terms of the JCPOA, Iran was granted relief from a number of financial sanctions - both USA and worldwide. As an alternative, Iran in the end withdrew the funds from the account at a slower fee and transformed them to euros utilizing European banks. "Nonetheless, as a gesture of assist for Iran's getting entry, we helped on this as we'll on different circumstances".
The GOP report offers recommendations on how best to proceed with its relationship with Iran.
- Informed future negotiations with Iran.