Archive for the ‘Iran – sanctions’ category

Iranian Commander Who Killed Americans Tours Syria, Violating International Travel Ban

December 19, 2016

Iranian Commander Who Killed Americans Tours Syria, Violating International Travel Ban, Washington Free Beacon, , December 19, 2016

CORRECTS SPELLING OF NAME TO SOLEIMANI - In this photo released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, commander of Iran's Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, prays in a religious ceremony at a mosque in the residence of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in Tehran, Iran, Friday, March 27, 2015. Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif sought Friday to reassure the six world powers conducting nuclear power talks in Switzerland, saying the negotiations remained focused on sealing a deal. (AP Photo/Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader)

Qassem Soleimani,  (AP Photo/Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader)

Multiple sources who spoke with the Washington Free Beacon about the matter disclosed that the Obama administration is taking a soft approach with Iran, including not enforcing sanctions, in order to preserve the nuclear deal and diplomacy with Tehran, which has threatened repercussions for any new sanctions.

Soleimani’s visit to Syria is viewed as a sign that Iran is not worried about facing repercussions for its continued military presence in Syria in support of embattled leader Bashar al-Assad.

Iran has breached international laws for some time without facing consequences. The Obama administration repeatedly assured Congress it would enforce sanctions on Iran when lawmakers expressed doubt about the viability of the Iran nuclear deal.

********************************

A top Iranian commander responsible for the deaths of Americans was photographed touring the war-torn city of Aleppo in Syria over the weekend, in violation of a United Nations travel ban that the Obama administration swore to enforce while selling the landmark nuclear deal with Iran to Congress, according to multiple sources and photographs.

Iranian Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani—a top general who leads Iranian militants across the globe and is directly responsible for the death of Americans—was recently photographed touring Aleppo in a demonstration of Iran’s waxing influence in Syria and disregard for international resolutions barring such behavior. Soleimani’s presence in Syria is a direct violation of the United Nations resolution governing the nuclear deal.

Soleimani’s visit coincided with moves by the terror group Hezbollah, which is controlled by Iran, to establish its own claim in Syria, according to regional reports and footage.

Iran’s public presence in Syria has not been met with action by the Obama administration, which has come under increasing pressure in recent weeks to explain why it is not enforcing current sanctions against Iran. Soleimani continues to direct Iranian forces in both Iraq and Syria and has long been sanctioned for the murder of U.S. citizens.

Mutliple sources who spoke with the Washington Free Beacon about the matter disclosed that the Obama administration is taking a soft approach with Iran, including not enforcing sanctions, in order to preserve the nuclear deal and diplomacy with Tehran, which has threatened repercussions for any new sanctions.

Soleimani’s visit to Syria is viewed as a sign that Iran is not worried about facing repercussions for its continued military presence in Syria in support of embattled leader Bashar al-Assad.

Iran has breached international laws for some time without facing consequences. The Obama administration repeatedly assured Congress it would enforce sanctions on Iran when lawmakers expressed doubt about the viability of the Iran nuclear deal.

The absence of consequences for Iran’s behavior has paved the way for Hezbollah to stake it own claim in Syria, according to congressional and foreign policy insiders who told the Free Beacon that the Obama administration is working behind the scenes to prevent any new sanctions against Iran.

“The Obama administration has been working overtime to prevent any U.S. official from doing anything new to punish the butchers of Syria, because they know that would force them to take action against Iran, and then Iran would walk away from the deal,” said one veteran insider who consults with Congress on the issue. “Now they’re ignoring even old sanctions against the Iranians. They’ll do anything to keep the Iranians in the deal for just a couple more weeks, so they can blame the inevitable collapse on Trump.”

A senior congressional aide apprised of the situation said the administration would continue to turn a blind eye to blatant violations in order to preserve diplomacy with Iran.

“This administration’s refusal to enforce sanctions explicitly allowed under the nuclear deal is not only cowardice—it’s dangerous,” said the aide. “What does it say about U.S. leadership when a terrorist like General Soleimani—someone with American blood on his hands—can freely travel to the ground zero of genocide in Syria without penalty? President Obama knows his nuclear deal is on thin ice, so he’s willing overlook blatant sanctions violations like this one even if it means more carnage in Aleppo.”

A second senior congressional source warned that refusal to enforce sanctions was empowering Iran’s radical regime, which has increasingly taken hold in Iraq as well, where the U.S. military has been accused of training Iranian-backed militias.

“The outgoing Obama administration struck a Faustian bargain with Iran, the world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism, and Soleimani, head of the IRGC terrorist organization that’s responsible for the death of many hundreds of Americans, continues to do victory laps throughout the Middle East” the source said. “Unless the Trump administration changes course, this short-sighted Iran policy cannot and will not end well.”

Troops in Aleppo, as well as an Iranian reporter, have been spotted raising Hezbollah’s flag in recent days, calling into question the Obama administration’s claim that it has been working to constrain the terror group.

Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon adviser and expert on radical regimes, told the Free Beacon that Iran sees the nuclear deal as a vehicle to advance its regional aspirations.

“For Obama, diplomacy’s goal was to affirm his brilliance,” Rubin said. “For Iran’s leadership, it was an asymmetric warfare tactic meant to distract from a continuous geopolitical goal.”

“Red lines matter. Over 25 years, both Republicans and Democrats signaled to Iran about what they were,” Rubin explained. “Obama, however, believed himself wiser than Reagan, Clinton, and Bush—at least that’s what the man in the mirror told him every morning. Once Iran realized there were no real red lines, it concluded it could bust sanctions with impunity. Soleimani is the personification of that conclusion.”

The State Department conceded on Monday that Soleimani’s visit to Syria violated United Security Council resolutions government the nuclear deal, but would not lay out steps meant to address the behavior.

“We do intend to consult with our partners on the security council about how to address our concerns with this,” State Department Spokesman John Kirby said during a press briefing. “We’ve long said that Iran needs to choose whether it’s going to play a positive role in helping peacefully resolve conflicts, such as in Syria, or whether it will choose to prolong them. And you’re absolutely right, his travel was a violation.”

Update 3:05 P.M.: This post has been updated to reflect comment from the State Department.

Iran Vows Nuclear Retaliation for U.S. Breach of Deal

December 14, 2016

Iran Vows Nuclear Retaliation for U.S. Breach of Deal, Washington Free Beacon, , December 14, 2016

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a news briefing after his meeting with his Slovenian counterpart Borut Pahor at the Saadabad palace in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani  (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

“But the Obama administration counted on Iran waiting until the next president before revealing the game, and the Iranians sprung the trap early,” the source added. “So now the administration will do everything it can to look the other way and get through the next few weeks, so they can blame the inevitable collapse on Trump.”

***************************

Senior Iranian officials vowed on Wednesday to continue moving forward with nuclear weapons work and other banned activities as retaliation against the United States for breaching last year’s nuclear accord, according to reports in the country’s state-controlled media.

Iranian leaders instructed the country’s atomic energy organization to move forward with sensitive nuclear work, including the construction of nuclear-powered ships and submarines.

Further provocative actions will be announced in the coming days, according to these Iranian leaders, who described the country’s actions as revenge for recent moves by the U.S. Congress to extend sanctions on Iran, a move the Islamic Republic claims is a breach of the nuclear deal.

Iran’s latest moves have not elicited concern from Obama administration officials, who continue to pursue a series of measures meant to decrease international pressure on Tehran and provide it with greater financial resources.

“Considering that the US administration has ignored and delayed compliance with its undertakings under the [nuclear agreement] and given the recent extension of the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) that had already been declared as a violation of the nuclear deal by the Islamic Republic of Iran… the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran is ordered to develop the country’s peaceful nuclear program within the framework of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s international undertakings as defined in the following missions,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani wrote in a letter Tuesday to the country’s top nuclear agency.

Iran will move forward with a “plan for designing and building propulsion systems to be used in marine transportation in cooperation with scientific and research centers,” according to Rouhani’s letter.

It also will engage in the “production of fuel for nuclear propulsion systems,” Rouhani wrote.

This is the first in a range of responses planned by Tehran, according to Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior aide to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

The renewed nuclear work is “the first but not the last measures to be taken by Iran,” Velayati was quoted as saying on Wednesday.

Iran’s announcement did not draw a sharp response from Obama administration officials, who declined to say whether the nuclear work would constitute a breach of the deal.

“This announcement itself does not constitute a violation,” State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters. “I think there’s a lot we just don’t know. I mean, this announcement just got made. There’s a lot we don’t know about it and what it means. And so I think we’d have to reserve some judgment here about the degree to which this could present any kind of problem.”

Kirby expressed faith in international nuclear inspectors, telling reporters that they would likely catch a breach of the deal.

Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon adviser and expert of rogue regimes, told the Washington Free Beacon that Iran is using the renewal of sanctions as an excuse to ramp up its illicit research activities

“The JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action], which they have never officially signed, was a gift made possible by Obama’s ego and Kerry’s naiveté,” Rubin said. “If they disagree with the United States, they can follow a legal process to pursue that but the fact that they are having a temper tantrum shows their insincerity. Especially because no new sanctions have been applied to Iran. After all, the U.S. president can waive any sanctions so long as Iran complies with its commitments.”

One senior foreign policy consultant who has worked with Republican and Democratic offices in Congress on the issue told the Free Beacon that Iran always planned to breach the deal once it received promised economic relief.

“The Iran deal was deliberately structured to prevent American leaders from pressuring Iran. Kerry and his Iranian counterparts wrote the deal so that Iran would get most of the benefits immediately, so that they could blackmail American lawmakers by threatening to costlessly walk away, which is exactly what they’re doing,” the source said.

“But the Obama administration counted on Iran waiting until the next president before revealing the game, and the Iranians sprung the trap early,” the source added. “So now the administration will do everything it can to look the other way and get through the next few weeks, so they can blame the inevitable collapse on Trump.”

Trump picked Tillerson for tough new Iran policy

December 14, 2016

Trump picked Tillerson for tough new Iran policy, DEBKAfile, December 14, 2016

rex-tillerson-putin

Rex Tillerson, Chairman an CEO of Exxon Mobil, was named this week as the next administration’s Secretary of State to execute the tough foreign policies charted by president-elect Donald Trump, including his decision to stiffen the nuclear accord signed with Iran as soon as he moves into the White House on Jan. 20.

DEBKAfile reports this exclusively from New York and its intelligence sources.

While campaigning for the presidency, Trump called the accord “the worst deal” ever.

According to our sources, a special team is already working on revisions of the accord which the US and five other global powers concluded with Iran in 2015 in the hope of retarding Iran’s nuclear weapons program by a decade.

As new president, Trump will issue Tehran with a unilateral demand to accept those revisions as pre-condition for the continuation of relations between the US and Iran. He does not intend consulting America’s co-signers, Russia, China, Germany, Britain and France, or asking them for their endorsement of the revamped accord.

The teams preparing the Trump administration’s Iran policy were put in place last week by Tillerson and designated national security adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.

No members of the incumbent NSC, State Department, Pentagon or Treasury, who managed the Obama administration’s Iran policy, was invited to take part. The teams were instead chosen from among scientists, military leaders and intelligence officials who opposed the nuclear accord with Iran.

Also attached were former administration officials hired by Exxon for their extensive knowledge of Iran’s oil trade and their close ties with oil circles in the Gulf Emirates, which like Israel, fought hard to pre-empt the nuclear deal with Iran.

Our sources have also learned that if Iran rejects the revised accord, the president elect has a list of new economic sanctions drawn up which are a lot tougher than the sanctions regime imposed by the Bush and Obama administrations.

The incoming president will have a fight on his hands to get the Tillerson appointment through the Senate in the face of objections raised by Republican lawmakers over his ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin. However, Trump hopes to turn those ties to his advantage. He trusts that Tillerson is just the man to sell the new administration’s Iran policies to the Russian president.

Read more about Trump’s plans for his secretary of state in the coming issue of DEBKA Weekly (for subscribers) out on Friday. Dec. 16, 2016.

Iran Threatens to Walk Away From Nuke Deal, Retaliate Against U.S. for New Sanctions

December 2, 2016

Iran Threatens to Walk Away From Nuke Deal, Retaliate Against U.S. for New Sanctions, Washington Free Beacon, December 2, 2016

(The threat is to boycott consumer goods, which commercial aircraft are not. Please see also, Iranian Cleric Urges Retaliation for US Breaches of Nuclear Deal. — DM)

In this picture released by the official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reads a note during his speech in a public gathering at his residence in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015. Iran's supreme leader said Wednesday the United States cannot be trusted to lift sanctions in a future nuclear deal and that Tehran should instead develop an "economy of resistance." A portrait of the late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini hangs in background. (AP Photo/Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader)

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (AP Photo/Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader)

Iran is threatening to walk away from the nuclear deal with the United States and pursue forms of retaliation, including a national boycott of American goods, as a result of Congress’s overwhelming vote on Thursday to level new sanctions against Iran for another 10 years, according to multiple comments by senior Iranian officials.

Following the Senate’s 99-0 vote to renew economic sanctions on Tehran, senior Iranian officials said the United States is in violation of last summer’s nuclear deal and that Iran is prepared to retaliate, which could include abandoning the agreement.

The comments come as the Obama administration scrambles to preserve the deal in its final months in office, ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, who has been assembling a cabinet filled with fierce opponents of the accord.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran doesn’t see any necessity to reveal this issue [its reactions] but we have made necessary predictions before, meaning that we are well prepared to show reaction,” Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, was quoted as saying on Friday in the country’s state-controlled press.

The new sanctions, Salahi said, “explicitly violate the nuclear deal.”

Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Movahedi Kermani hotly criticized the United States during Iran’s weekly national Friday prayer service, urging the country’s leaders to retaliate against America.

“Nothing but hostility is expected from the U.S., but as said before, now it’s time for retaliation,” the cleric was quoted as saying.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei offered similar remarks last month, as the Obama administration was working behind-the-scenes to prevent Congress from pursuing the new sanctions.

“If this extension is implemented and comes into force, it will certainly be a violation of the nuclear deal and they should know that the Islamic Republic of Iran will certainly show reaction,” Khamenei said at the time.

Iran’s Parliament is now taking steps to counter the sanctions by enacting its own national boycott of U.S. goods.

The “double-urgency plan” would ban all U.S. consumer goods from Iran.

“Given the U.S. hostile measure, meaning extension of the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) for another 10 years, a double-urgency plan to ban purchase of the U.S.-made consumer goods has been prepared in the parliament,” Mohammad Reza Tabesh, a senior Iranian parliament member, was quoted as telling Iran’s state-controlled press on Friday.

The plan is expected to overwhelmingly pass Iran’s Parliament.

Iran’s military is also taking increasingly hostile steps on the heels of the sanctions vote.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp’s naval faction is increasing patrols outside of Iranian waters in a bid to stop any vessels from coming near the Islamic Republic.

“The Iranian Navy, along with the IRGC Navy, are monitoring all moves by the regional and trans-regional states in the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz, the Sea of Oman, and the Northern parts of the Indian Ocean, and do not allow any vessel to approach the Islamic Republic of Iran’s borders or inflict damage on our interests and resources,” Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, the commander of Iran’s Navy, said during a Friday speech.

The comments come as Iran makes provocative maneuvers against U.S. forces in the region. Late last month, Iranian vessels pointed an anti-aircraft weapon at U.S. helicopters that were flying nearby in a move the Pentagon described as highly provocative and dangerous.

Iranian Cleric Urges Retaliation for US Breaches of Nuclear Deal

December 2, 2016

Iranian Cleric Urges Retaliation for US Breaches of Nuclear Deal, Tasnim News Agency, December 2, 2016

retaliate-for-sanctions

“We are disgusted by recent moves by the US,” he said, adding that if Washington seeks to tear up the nuclear deal, Iran will set it ablaze as Leader of the Islamic Revolution has said.

*******************************

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – A senior Iranian cleric slammed the US Congress for its recent move to extend sanctions against Iran for another ten years, saying that it is now time for the Islamic Republic to retaliate such violations of the JCPOA, a nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.

“Nothing is expected from the US except hostility (toward the Iranian nation) and now is the time for retaliation,” Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Movahedi Kermani said in an address to a gathering of Friday prayer worshippers in Tehran.

“We are disgusted by recent moves by the US,” he said, adding that if Washington seeks to tear up the nuclear deal, Iran will set it ablaze as Leader of the Islamic Revolution has said.

The US Senate voted unanimously on Thursday to extend the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) for another decade.

The ISA will expire on Dec. 31 if not renewed. The White House had not pushed for an extension, but had not raised serious objections.

While the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear agreement between Iran and the Group 5+1 (Russia, China, the US, Britain, France and Germany) came into force in January, some Iranian officials complain about the US failure to fully implement the accord.

In an address to a gathering of Basij forces in Tehran on November 23, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei made it clear that implementation of the bill to extend sanctions on Iran for 10 more years will translate into a breach of the JCPOA.

“If such extension (of anti-Iran sanctions) is implemented and comes into force (in the US), it will be definitely a violation of the JCPOA,” the Leader said at the time.

“They (Americans) should know that the Islamic Republic of Iran will certainly show reaction to it,” Ayatollah Khamenei underlined.

Senate sends Iran sanctions bill to Obama with 99-0 vote

December 1, 2016

Senate sends Iran sanctions bill to Obama with 99-0 vote, Washington ExaminerSusan Crabtree, December 1, 2016

mcconnelSenate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Thursday that the bill, which would preserve existing sanctions set to expire at the end of the year, is critical given Iran’s “continued pattern of aggression” and “efforts to expand its sphere of influence across the region.” (Graeme Jennings/Examiner)

The Obama administration has opposed the legislation, arguing that it already has the power to extend or impose additional sanctions on Tehran and the sanctions are no longer necessary after the nuclear deal.

********************

The Senate unanimously passed legislation Thursday that would extend sanctions on Iran for 10 years, a move many supported as a way to ensure the U.S. maintains its leverage over Iran in light of questions about its implementation of the Iran nuclear agreement.

The 99-0 Senate vote sends it along to the president’s desk for his signature. The vote came after the House overwhelmingly approved the measure, known as the Iran Sanctions Extension Act, two weeks ago in a 419-1 vote.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Thursday that the bill, which would preserve existing sanctions set to expire at the end of the year, is critical given Iran’s “continued pattern of aggression” and “efforts to expand its sphere of influence across the region.”

“This is even more important given how the current administration has been held hostage by Tehran’s threats to withdraw from the nuclear agreement, and how it has ignored Iran’s overall efforts to upset the balance of power in the greater Middle East,” he said.

Under the nuclear agreement between Iran, the United States and five other world powers, many sanctions were lifted or eased in exchange for Iran’s agreement to roll back its nuclear program and an inspections regime to try to enforce it. The Obama administration and supporters of the deal insisted that sanctions could easily “snap back” if Iran was found to have violated the terms of the deal.

But critics argued that sanctions, once lifted, could not easily be re-imposed because foreign investors previously barred from doing business with Tehran before the nuclear pact couldn’t easily cancel contracts and abandon their financial ties to the country.

The U.S. sanctions, which Congress first passed in 1996, target any outside investments in Iran’s energy sector to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons, and would have expired at the end of 2016 if Congress hadn’t acted.

In the months since the nuclear deal went into effect, Iran has complained that these non-nuclear related sanctions are preventing businesses from investing in the country, particularly the prohibition on Iranian access to the U.S. financial system. Tehran argues that the strict limits are preventing many companies from engaging in new business deals in Iran, in effect, subverting the economic benefits it expected the nuclear deal to produce.

Critics, however, countered that Iran is still suffering because foreign businesses are nervous about violating the new rules and risking U.S. sanctions on them and are reluctant to contribute to revenue to a top state sponsor of terrorist activity.

The Obama administration has opposed the legislation, arguing that it already has the power to extend or impose additional sanctions on Tehran and the sanctions are no longer necessary after the nuclear deal.

Members of Congress, including key Democrats, are adamant that the existing sanctions remain in effect in order to demonstrate to Iran that the U.S. will respond to any provocations or violations of the nuclear agreement.

In Contrast To Rohani Allegations In UNGA, Senior Iranian Officials Confirm U.S. Has Met Its Obligations Under JCPOA

September 24, 2016

In Contrast To Rohani Allegations In UNGA, Senior Iranian Officials Confirm U.S. Has Met Its Obligations Under JCPOA, MEMRI,  Y. Carmon and A. Savyon* September 23, 2016

Introduction

In his September 22, 2016 speech at the UN General Assembly, Iranian President Hassan Rohani accused that the U.S. is not meeting its obligations towards Iran under the JCPOA. He said: “The lack of compliance with the deal on the part of the United States in the past several months represents a flawed approach that should be rectified forthwith… Any failure on the part of the United States in implementing it (the deal) would constitute an international wrongful act and would be objected to by the international community.”[1] 

30061Rohani at the UNGA (Image: Farsnews.com, September 22, 2016)

Rohani’s statements, which are part of an Iranian attempt in recent weeks to create a false impression that the U.S. has not met its obligations towards Iran, are in stark contradiction to statements made by senior members of the Iranian negotiation team who explicitly admitted that the U.S. has in fact met its obligations under the JCPOA (see below).

This Iranian measure is a response to the refusal of Western banks to conduct transactions with Iran in dollars, despite the lifting of the nuclear sanctions in January 2016, because the initial sanctions imposed on Iran by Congress for human rights violations and for terrorism are still in force. As will be recalled, Iran refuses to negotiate with the West on issues of terrorism, on the grounds that these issues are internal sovereign matters.

Below is a MEMRI report on this issue published on August 15, 2016.

As the first year of the JCPOA is marked, and in light of Western banks’ rejection of Iranian transactions in dollars, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his supporters in the West have launched a campaign to pressure the U.S. to lift the initial sanctions imposed on Iran by Congress for human rights violations and for terrorism. Their aim is to have these sanctions lifted without negotiations and without giving anything in return.

As will be recalled, Iran from the outset restricted the framework of the negotiations to the nuclear issue, and refused to allow them to include other issues such as human rights, terrorism, or missiles, which it considers internal sovereign matters. Therefore, the initial American sanctions concerning these areas remain in force.

A demand for lifting of all the sanctions, including the initial ones, was made by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in the months after the JCPOA was achieved in July 2015.[2] Perhaps Tehran thought that with the lifting of the nuclear sanctions, the entire sanctions regime would collapse, including those concerning human rights, terrorism, and missiles. But this did not happen. The U.S. Treasury Department is following the letter and the spirit of U.S. law, and is warning banks worldwide that the initial sanctions remain in force.[3]

In light of this situation, Iran and the supporters of its regime in the West are now working to create a false impression that the U.S. has not met its obligations towards Iran. They claim that, in order to fulfill its commitments towards Iran in the JCPOA, the U.S. is obligated to revoke or circumvent the initial sanctions imposed on Iran by Congress, which currently prevent banks from dealing freely with Iran.  For example, Tyler Cullis, member of the Iranian lobby in the U.S., the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), stated in a recent policy paper that “the United States is committed to ensuring that neither U.S. law nor policy is standing in the way of non-U.S. banks resuming correspondent banking relations with their Iranian counterparts… If U.S. laws or policies are interfering with Iran realizing the full benefit of the lifting of sanctions on Iran’s financial institutions, then the U.S. is required to take steps to ensure that those laws or policies no longer are running such interference. To do so could require additional changes to U.S. laws or policies governing the issue.”[4]

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister and negotiating team member Majid Takhtravanchi also demanded that the U.S. take explicit steps to remove any obstacles currently preventing banks from dealing with Iran. He said on June 27, 2016,: “Two [contradictory] messages are coming out of Washington: The State Department says that there is no problem carrying out banking and financial transactions with Iran, while the OFAC says the opposite… We want the OFAC… to guarantee that there is no problem for the banks that are cooperating with Iran…”[5]

It should be mentioned that the Iranian implication that the U.S. has not met its obligations towards Iran stands in contradiction to explicit statements made recently by Iranian officials, mainly negotiation team members from Iran’s pragmatic camp, who confirmed that the U.S. had upheld its part of the JCPOA. Deputy Foreign Minister and senior negotiating team member ‘Abbas Araghchi said on a television special marking the first anniversary of the JCPOA: “Both sides have met their obligations under the JCPOA… In order to benefit from the JCPOA… we must carry out several steps because there are restrictions that are not connected to the JCPOA… The other side has implemented its obligations, and if it had not, that would have been a violation of the JCPOA, and we would have handled it in the Joint Committee…

“The JCPOA was meant to remove the obstacles of the sanctions from Iran’s economic path. [Indeed], these obstacles have been removed, but there are other obstacles, such as the initial sanctions by America, FATF [Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering], and laws connected to money-laundering, which require time [to take care of].

“From the outset, [the other side] was not meant to lift the sanctions that are not connected to the nuclear issue; that is written even in the [2013] Geneva Joint Plan of Action [about the lifting of] ‘sanctions related to the nuclear [issue], because we were negotiating about the nuclear issue [alone]…

“The sanctions on the dollar and the use of the financial apparatus of America belong to the initial sanctions imposed long ago because of issues that are not nuclear-related… We raised the matter in the negotiations, but the Americans did not agree to lift these sanctions… and demanded additional concessions [from us] in matters that were part of our red lines…

“The Americans are serious about maintaining their initial sanctions; this is the essence of America. Iran is Iran and America is America, and as long as we do not negotiate on bilateral relations [with the U.S.], these sanctions will remain in force. The American Treasury Department tells [the banks worldwide] that these sanctions are in force, and has warned them not to get in trouble because of them. These sanctions are not related to the JCPOA.”[6]

Deputy Foreign Minister and negotiating team member Hamid Ba’idinejad said at a press conference marking the first anniversary of the JCPOA: “Up to this very moment, the members of the [Iranian] negotiating team believe that the JCPOA has not been violated [by the U.S.], and still believe that it is possible to solve the problems [concerning transactions in dollars] with discussions, recommendations, and talks… From the outset, the task set out [for the Iranian negotiating team] was to resolve the nuclear issue [alone]. So far, the Islamic Republic has made no decision to negotiate with America on [the other] issues in dispute…

“Our regime never expected us to achieve the lifting of the sanctions for human rights [in the framework] of the nuclear talks.”[7]

Expediency Council head Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said: “America is telling [the banks worldwide] that it has not lifted the [initial] sanctions because this problem is related to human rights, terrorism, Palestine, and Lebanon. These [issues] too we could have solved.”[8]

However, after Khamenei warned, on August 1, 2016, that the U.S. had violated its commitments, the negotiating team heads fell into line with him, and began to state that the U.S. had indeed violated its obligations and to demand further changes in U.S. policies and laws.

A U.S. capitulation to these Iranian demands would be a blow to the authority of Congress, which imposed the initial sanctions, and to the separation of powers in the U.S. Moreover, it would constitute U.S. support for Iran’s ideological camp – Khamenei, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the Basij, and the ayatollahs connected to them – and not to the pragmatic camp, and would also stand in contradiction to President Obama’s commitment that the JCPOA deals only with the nuclear issue.

 

* Y. Carmon is President of MEMRI; A. Savyon is the director of MEMRI’s Iran Media Project

 

Endnotes:

 

[1] Farsnews.com, September 22, 2016.

[2] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6151, Khamenei Declares That He Will Not Honor The Agreement If Sanctions Are Merely Suspended And Not Lifted, September 4, 2015.

[3] See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 1249, Post-JCPOA, The IRGC Is The Factor Stopping Iran From Integration Into The Western Economy, May 20, 2016.

[4] Niacouncil.org, August 2016.

[5] Tabnak (Iran), July 27, 2016.

[6] Fars (Iran), July 11, 2016.

[7] Fars (Iran), July 13, 2016.

[8] Fars (Iran), August 10, 2016.