Iran Expert Tells Congress: Obama Administration Might Have Given Tehran Over $30 Billion in Cash, Gold Payments
While the Obama administration has admitted to transferring $1.7 billion in cash earlier this year to Tehran, even more cash might have been given by the US to the ayatollahs following the January 2014 implementation of the interim nuclear agreement reached by the Islamic Republic with six world powers, an Iran expert revealed at a congressional hearing on Thursday.
According to the testimony of Mark Dubowitz, the executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, “the worst-case scenario here is that Iran may have received as much as $33.6 billion in cash or in gold and other precious metals” between 2014 and 2016.
Addressing a hearing of the House Financial Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Dubowitz said that during the negotiations on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the P5+1 nations allowed Iran “to repatriate $11.9 billion dollars from restricted, overseas oil escrow accounts. Taken on average, these payments from accounts in foreign banks amounted to roughly $700 million per month.”
Alluding to the prospect that these payments were made in cash, Dubowitz asked, “If no mechanism existed in the formal financial system to transfer the $1.7 billion to Iran, what mechanism was used to transfer the $11.9 billion?”
Dubowitz went on to say, “In July, the Associated Press cited US officials who estimated that Iran ‘brought home less than $20 billion.’ Were these funds repatriated to Tehran in cash or in gold and precious metals? Through the formal financial system? Or through some combination? The administration should also clarify if the $20 billion dollars is inclusive of the $11.9 billion in JPOA (Joint Plan of Action, i.e. the interim nuclear deal) funds, or if the $20 billion was in addition to the $11.9 billion. Either way, it is important to understand how funds were sent.”
The FDD head made three recommendations to Congress — “pass legislation requiring the administration to be fully transparent on details surrounding its transfer of cash to Iran”; “prohibit large cash and precious metals tranfers to and withdrawals by state sponsors of terrorism”; and “create a legal mechanism to move escrow funds to a global bank in a country where Iran wants to shop.”
Concluding his testimony, Dubowitz stated, “The illicit financial consequences of cash transfers to Iran warrant further congressional investigation beyond whether such a payment was a ransom. It is important to investigate the possibility that the Obama administration authorized the movement in cash of many billions of dollars related to JPOA and JCPOA sanctions relief as well as Tribunal claims.”
Furthermore, he said, “the transfer of this cash, which is untraceable, easy to hide, and valuable to a regime like Iran’s with billions of dollars in illicit activities, would have severe consequences for American national security and that of our regional allies. If the administration refuses to answer fundamental questions about the nature and extent of the movement of cash to Iran, Congress needs to pass legislation to force much-needed transparency and disclosure.”
Meanwhile, in a reference to the Iran cash controversy, Texas Senator and former Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz tweeted, “Americans deserve an explanation of why the Obama Admin is using their money not to fight terrorism, but to fund it.”
In an interview with The Algemeiner last month, former State Department Middle East negotiator Aaron David Miller said the “cash-for-prisoners” controversy has played into the hands of Iranian hardliners and helped bolster the image of growing US weakness in the Middle East.