Archive for the ‘Iran – sanctions relief’ category

Iran Demands ‘Compensation’ for U.S. Breach of Nuke Deal

January 11, 2017

Iran Demands ‘Compensation’ for U.S. Breach of Nuke Deal, Washinton Free Beacon, , January 10, 2017

Abbas Araqchi, Iran's deputy foreign minister for legal and international affairs and top nuclear negotiator, meets the press in Vienna, Austria, on Feb. 24, 2015, after talking with International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano on Tehran's nuclear program. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

Abbas Araqchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister for legal and international affairs and top nuclear negotiator. (Kyodo)

The call for further compensation comes just days after the Obama administration was forced to admit that it had been providing Iran with around $700 million in assets every month since the nuclear deal was approved.

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Iran is demanding further “compensation” from the United States following claims America violated the nuclear agreement by passing new sanctions on the Islamic Republic, according to comments by senior Iranian officials following meetings with the Obama administration in Vienna.

The demand for further concessions by the Obama administration comes on the heels of reports that the United States has deflated the total amount of cash, gold, and other assets provided to the Islamic Republic during the past several years. The sum is believed to be in excess of $10 billion.

Iran has threatened to retaliate against the United States in recent weeks following the passage late last year by Congress of the Iran Sanctions Act, or ISA, which will continue to economically penalize Iran for the next 10 years.

The call for further compensation comes just days after the Obama administration was forced to admit that it had been providing Iran with around $700 million in assets every month since the nuclear deal was approved.

Ahead of a series of meetings Tuesday with senior U.S. officials, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi again accused the United States of violating the nuclear agreement and demanded compensation for the purported breach.

“The extension of the ISA is a breach of the U.S. obligations under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and must be compensated in an effective way,” Araqchi was quoted as telling reporters in Vienna.

The latest meetings about the nuclear deal were orchestrated by Iranian officials, who remain angry about the passage of new sanctions.

Araqchi made clear on Monday that Tehran is “serious” about retaliating against the United States for its passage of new sanctions, stating the Islamic Republic has already made moves to restart contested work on nuclear powered submarines and other weapons.

The Washington Free Beacon reported on Monday that official estimates about the amount of money awarded to Iran by the Obama administration are actually higher than previously known.

A State Department official told the Free Beacon that it would not prejudge its meetings with Iran when asked if further concessions are on the table.

“While we are not going to prejudge the outcome of any meeting, we will discuss ongoing implementation of the JCPOA as we always do,” the official said.

The total worth of the cash, assets, gold, and bullion given to Iran is in excess of $10 billion, according to Bahram Ghasemi, the spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry.

“I will not speak about the precise amount,” Ghasemi was quoted as saying in Persian language reports independently translated for the Free Beacon.

The $10 billion figure is actually a “stingy” estimate, Ghasemi claimed, adding that the cash and gold sent by Washington to Iran’s Central Bank was subsequently “spent.”

“This report is true but the value was higher,” Ghasemi was quoted as saying.

“After the Geneva conference and the resulting agreement, it was decided that $700 million dollars were to be dispensed per month” by the United States, according to Ghasemi. “In addition to the cash funds which we received, we [also] received our deliveries in gold, bullion, and other things.”

Straun Stevenson Blames President Obama for the Legacy of Death and Destruction in Middle East

January 8, 2017

Straun Stevenson Blames President Obama for the Legacy of Death and Destruction in Middle East, Iran News Update, January 8, 2017

(Please see also, In its Last Days, Obama Administration Clings to Hope of a Positive Role for Iran. — DM)

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Struan Stevenson, president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association, former member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), president of the Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14) and chairman of Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14), writes in his January 6, 2017 article for UPI, that the legacy of President Barack Obama will be death and destruction in the Middle East. His vision cooperation between  the United States and Iran “has unlocked a Pandora’s box of conflict and sectarian strife across the zone.”

During the closing days of the Obama administration the controversial nuclear deal with Iran and his policies regarding that ruthless regime have allowed the mullahs to threaten the security of the Middle East, and perhaps, while Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and Turkey have tried to prevent Iran’s aggressive expansionism in the region.

The U.S. and other countries is the West failed the Syrian opposition and allowed a civil war to continue into its seventh year, costing hundreds of thousands of lives, and setting off the huge migration crisis in Europe.

$150 billion of frozen assets were released to Iran by the U.S. as part of the nuclear deal, which the Tehran government was expected to use to shore up their economy, on the brink of collapse. Instead, the regime redouble its spending the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and Quds Force, both of which are listed terrorist organizations in the West and are involved in many conflicts in the Middle East. Not only does Iran support Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and Yemen’s Houthi rebels, it funds and supplies Hezbollah in Lebanon and the brutal Shi’ia militias in Iraq.

The nuclear deal has been breached, which Stevenson says demonstrates Iran’s complete disdain for the West. Two Qadr-H missiles were fired last March, in defiance of a U.N. Security Council resolution tied to the agreement. “Israel must be wiped out” was marked on the missiles, and the test firing took place on the day that the U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was visiting Israel. Vladimir Putin sent the first shipment of Russian S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Iran last August.

President Obama attempted to make deals with the so-called “moderate” and “smiling” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, which he interpreted as having a green light for Tehran’s expansionist policy. Rouhani is in fact in charge of a government which has executed around 3,000 people since he took office in 2013, ten just this year. Mass hangings are now carried out in public, even in football stadiums. Many of the officials in his government were complicit in the 1988 massacre of some 30,000 political prisoners, most of whom were part of the opposition People’s Mojahedin of Iran. In fact, it was supervised by Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, who is Rouhani’s justice minister.

Obama began his administration by agreeing with Iran, and backing Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister in Iraq. Stevenson writes, “Maliki was a puppet of the mullahs, doing their bidding by opening a direct route for Iranian troops and equipment heading to Syria to bolster the murderous Assad regime. Iran’s support for Maliki in Iraq and for Assad in Syria, two corrupt dictators who repressed and brutalized their own people, resulted in the rise of Daesh, also known as the Islamic State.Thanks to U.S. acquiescence over Tehran, Daesh grew and became a threat to the whole world.”  He continues, “Obama compounded this grievous mistake by providing American military support and air cover for the genocidal campaign being waged by pro-Iranian Shi’ia militias in Iraq. Once again Iran exploited its role in ousting Daesh as a means for implementing its ruthless policy of ethnic cleansing to annihilate the Sunnis in Iraq’s al-Anbar Province. Horrific sectarian atrocities were committed during the so-called “liberation” of the ancient cities of Fallujah and Ramadi. The Shi’ia militias, who formed the main part of the force fighting to recapture these cities from Daesh and are now engaged in the battle to recapture Mosul, are led by Gen. Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian terrorist Quds Force. Soleimani has also played a key role in Syria and the massacre in Aleppo.”

Tehran is gaining strength in Iraq. The Iraqi army is poorly trained, and the Iranian has Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s agreement to allowing Iranian-funded militias to take control of military operations. Political disarray in Baghdad, has paved the way for Iran to consolidate its hold in Iraq.

The unenviable task of trying to sort out the Middle East mess will be left to President-elect Donald Trump. Many people on his team believe that Iran is the main source of conflict in the Middle East and poses a greater threat to the West than North Korea or even Russia. It will be interesting to see how Trump will fare.

 

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.

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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.

U.S. Money Transferred To Iran Used To Expand Iran’s Military Budget

December 15, 2016

U.S. Money Transferred To Iran Used To Expand Iran’s Military Budget, MEMRI, Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli*

While we cannot establish whether the money transferred from the U.S. went directly into the expanded defense budget, it, at a minimum, enabled the government to release an equal amount of money for defense purposes. It is noteworthy that the increase in the proposed defense budget for 2017 is approximately equal to the amount transferred by the U.S. Whatever the source of the defense budget increase, the IRGC will have ample resources to expand its nefarious activities far beyond the borders of the Islamic Republic.

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The government of Iranian President Hassan Rohani has submitted to the Majlis (parliament) a draft budget for the fiscal year March 2017-March 2018 for a total of $99.7 billion equivalent. The budget envisages a growth in expenditure of 13.9 percent over the preceding year, but a sharp increase of 39 percent, or $10.3 billion, in funds earmarked for defense, including a big increase in the budget of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Notwithstanding political, economic and social conflicts between the Rohani government and the IRGC, foreign policy is closely coordinated by the two bodies. Upon reaching power, the Rohani government declared two key priorities: reforming the national economy, and reaching agreement with the West on the nuclear program. The government has shown no objection to the role of the IRGC, a potent military force accountable to the Supreme Leader, in regional politics, and particularly in Syria and Iraq. A branch of the IRGC, the Qods Force Brigade, commanded by Gen. Qasem Soleimani, is responsible for spreading Iran’s subversive and, often, terrorist activities across the Middle East and beyond.

Growth Of Iran’s Defense Budget

Overall, Iran’s defense budget has increased from $6 billion in 2013 during the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to $8 billion in 2014, and in access of $10 billion for the next Iranian fiscal year. However, the section of the military budget earmarked for the IRGC has registered a far greater increase than the military budget as a whole. The budget allocation for the Revolutionary Guards was $3.3 billion in 2013, increased to $6 billion in 2015, declined to $4.5 billion in 2016 but increased by 53 percent to $6.9 billion for 2017 which translated into 77 percent of the total defense budget. In fact, under the Rouhani presidency, the total allocations to the military, the IRGC, the Organization for the Mobilization of the Oppressed (Basij), and the General Staff of the Armed Forces all rose to almost 80 percent since mid-2013 when Rohani assumed the presidency.

Apart of its dominant share in the national defense budget, the IRGC derives vast revenues from its control over energy, construction, banking, and marketing (as well as smuggling of contraband.) Much of these economic activities are carried out by a company known as Khatam Al-Anbiya (“Seal of the Prophet”) established by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in the late 1980s as the economic arm of the IRGC. Upon the withdrawal of the major oil companies such as Shell Oil (Anglo-Dutch) and Total (French) from Iran’s oil sector following the international sanctions, ownership of the oil and gas fields vacated by these companies was transferred to Khatam Al-Anbiya.[1]

The Ultimate Destiny Of The U.S.-Transferred Cash To Iran

In seeking to strengthen the policy of rapprochement with Iran, the Obama administration (though its Treasury Department) has surreptitiously transferred to Rohani’s government two tranches, in cash, for a total of $1.7 billion, allegedly as the cumulated interest on Iran’s deposits, made during the Shah regime before the 1979 revolution, for the purchase of American weapons

It is a commonly accepted premise that money is fungible. While we cannot establish whether the money transferred from the U.S. went directly into the expanded defense budget, it, at a minimum, enabled the government to release an equal amount of money for defense purposes. It is noteworthy that the increase in the proposed defense budget for 2017 is approximately equal to the amount transferred by the U.S. Whatever the source of the defense budget increase, the IRGC will have ample resources to expand its nefarious activities far beyond the borders of the Islamic Republic.

*Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli is Senior Analyst (emeritus) at MEMRI.

 

[1] Al-Quds al-Arabi, December 10, 2016

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.”

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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.”

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.

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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.

New UN Security Council Resolution Strengthens Sanctions Against North Korea

December 1, 2016

New UN Security Council Resolution Strengthens Sanctions Against North Korea, Front Page MagazineJoseph Klein, December 1, 2016

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But Iran, freed of sanctions, is likely to be the spoiler.

The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2321 (2016) on November 30th. It condemns the North Korean (DPRK) regime’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles while its people continue to suffer under inhumane conditions. The resolution strengthens previous UN-imposed sanctions on the DPRK in response to its fifth nuclear test conducted on September 9, 2016.

The prior resolutions have failed to slow, much less eliminate, the DPRK’s nuclear program involving the development and testing of both nuclear device and ballistic missile capabilities. As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon pointed out in his remarks to the Security Council following the vote, “The Council first adopted a resolution on the DPRK nuclear issue in 1993. Twenty-three years and six sanctions resolutions later, the challenge persists.”

The new resolution is intended to put more of a financial squeeze on the DPKR regime than ever before by closing loopholes and cutting the DPRK off from sources of hard currency that can be used to fund its nuclear bomb and ballistic missile programs.

Most notably, the new resolution places tighter restrictions on the DPRK’s export of coal. There will now be an absolute cap on how much coal the DPRK can export per year, closing a loophole that had allowed an exemption from any coal export limitations so long as the transactions were determined to be exclusively for “livelihood” purposes. Member states must report all transactions promptly to the 1718 DPRK Sanctions Committee, which is directed to monitor total volumes and notify states when the allowed quantities have been reached and all procurement of coal from the DPRK must end.

The binding export cap will potentially cut the DPRK’s largest export, coal, by approximately $700 million per year from 2015 (more than 60%). Considering the fact that China is the DPRK’s principal purchaser of coal, the new restrictions agreed to by China are significant if fully implemented.

In addition, the new resolution imposes further restrictions on the sale or transfer of copper and other non-ferrous metals. It also places a ban on the supply, sale or transfer from the DPRK of statues, which has proven to be a lucrative source of hard currency needed by the regime. The resolution contains travel bans and assets freezes directed to individuals and entities not previously listed for such punitive actions, who are determined to be involved in the development, production, and financing of the DPRK’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, as well as the DPRK coal and conventional arms trade. There are more dual-use items, materials, equipment, goods and technology that will be subject to the embargo covering transfers to and from the DPRK.  Strict new sanctions on the DPRK’s illicit transportation activities are imposed.  Inspections of cargo transiting to and from the DPRK by rail, sea, air and road are to be expanded. And the new resolution contains further measures to isolate the DPRK from the global financial system and to prohibit financial support for trade with the DPRK in the form of export credits, guarantees, insurance and the like.

Resolution 2321 emphasizes, for the first time, a human rights dimension beyond the DPKR’s proliferation activities – the need for the DPRK to respect and ensure the inherent dignity of people in its territory. It also warns the DPRK that it is subject to being suspended from its UN rights and privileges.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, who led the negotiations of the text primarily with her Chinese counterpart, heralded the new resolution. She said it “imposes unprecedented costs on the DPRK regime for defying this Council’s demands.” She admitted, however, that “No resolution in New York will likely, tomorrow, persuade Pyongyang to cease its relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons.” Ambassador Power stressed that for the resolution to have any material impact on the DPRK’s behavior “all Member States of this United Nations must fully implement the sanctions that we have adopted today.” Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, while lauding the new resolution for including “the toughest and most comprehensive sanctions regime ever imposed by the Security Council,” reinforced Ambassador Power’s admonition. He warned that “sanctions are only as effective as their implementation. It is incumbent on all Member States of the United Nations to make every effort to ensure that these sanctions are fully implemented.”

The problem with such an expectation for full implementation by all member states is Iran, which is known to have a tight collaborative relationship with the DPRK to bolster both countries’ nuclear weapons and missile programs. Iran has flouted UN Security Council resolutions in the past aimed at its own nuclear program. And despite the nuclear deal under which Iran is expected to curtail its nuclear program, it is continuing the testing and development of ballistic missiles designed to carry nuclear weapons. When I raised the concern about Iran’s relationship with the DPRK to Ambassador Power after she delivered some brief remarks to the press, she refused to answer my question and walked away. It is not surprising in this case why she ducked my question. The concessions President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry made in order to reach agreement with Iran on the nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) have provided a huge loophole for Iran and the DPRK to exploit together.

More specifically, the JCPOA contains a long “Specially Designated Nationals” list of individuals and entities that will no longer be subject to previously instituted nuclear-related sanctions. This delisting includes entities involved in supporting Iran’s ballistic missile program, which Iran is now arguably freer to pursue thanks to other concessions offered by Obama and Kerry.

One of the entities removed from both the UN and U.S. sanctions lists is Bank Sepah, a large Iranian state-owned financial institution. Bank Sepah had been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department back in 2007 for “facilitating Iran’s weapons program” and providing “support and services to designated Iranian proliferation firms.”   The bank had also been listed as an entity “involved in nuclear or ballistic missile activities” in UN Security Council Resolution 1747.

In addition to supporting Iran’s own missile program, Bank Sepah has also been involved, according to the U.S. Treasury Department, in transferring large sums of money from Iran’s Aerospace Industries Organization to a North Korean firm associated with the Korea Mining Development Trading Bureau (KOMID), “a North Korean entity designated for providing Iran with missile technology.”

The DPRK’s Tanchon Commercial Bank, which has been designated by the US and the UN Security Council for sanctions due to its suspected proliferation-related activities, has served as the financial arm for KOMID.  “Since 2005,” according to a statement issued several years ago by the Treasury Department, “Tanchon has maintained an active relationship with various branches of Iran’s Bank Sepah…the U.S. has reason to believe that the Tanchon-Bank Sepah relationship has been used for North Korea-Iran proliferation-related transactions.”

Bank Sepah now is no longer hobbled by sanctions as a result of the JCPOA and a follow-up Security Council resolution endorsing the JCPOA and terminating the previous UN sanctions resolutions against Iran. This means not only more funding for Iran’s missile program, which Iran is continuing to pursue without any consequences. It also means a potential source of hard currency for North Korea’s nuclear program – precisely the opposite of what Ambassador Power said was the intent of the new DPRK Security Council sanctions resolution. And this is only scratching the surface of how the unfreezing of billions of dollars of Iranian assets and removal of sanctions on Iranian entities involved in nuclear-related activities, which have had ties with North Korean entities involved in nuclear-related activities, will help accelerate the nuclear weapons and missile programs of both rogue regimes.

In short, for the Obama administration, “The one hand giveth; the other hand taketh away.” Hopefully, the new Trump administration will do a better job in connecting the dots in the dangerous collaborative relationship between Iran and the DPKR and undo the damage the Iran nuclear deal is likely to do in helping to further that relationship.