Have we reached the wear clown shoes stage of the Iran agreement yet? According to this report from the Wall Street Journal, we may be well past that stage of humiliation. Despite denials from the Obama administration that it did not cut a special deal to get Americans out of Iran, the White House signed off on a bid to lift sanctions on two Iranian banks that had bankrolled the mullahs’ ballistic missile system. The original deal with Iran called for lifting those sanctions seven years later:
The Obama administration agreed to back the lifting of United Nations sanctions on two Iranian state banks blacklisted for financing Iran’s ballistic-missile program on the same day in January that Tehran released four American citizens from prison, according to U.S. officials and congressional staff briefed on the deliberations.
The U.N. sanctions on the two banks weren’t initially to be lifted until 2023, under a landmark nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers that went into effect on Jan. 16.
The U.N. Security Council’s delisting of the two banks, Bank Sepah and Bank Sepah International, was part of a package of tightly scripted agreements—the others were a controversial prisoner swap and transfer of $1.7 billion in cash to Iran—that were finalized between the U.S. and Iran on Jan. 17, the day the Americans were freed.
Until now, Barack Obama and his team have insisted that the cash payments would have gone to Iran immediately, regardless of the timing on the hostage release. The pallets of cash belonged to Iran, Obama has argued, and the parameters of the payments had already been disclosed even if their method of transmission had been kept quiet. Congress is already investigating that, especially the manner in which the Obama administration broke up the transfer to keep any one transaction below $100 million.
This, however, looks much more like a quid pro quo. The Iranians had previously agreed to continue the international sanctions on Bank Sepah and its international arm. Those sanctions were not just arbitrary, but a rational approach to keeping funds from flowing back into Iranian armaments. Lifting the sanctions now makes it much more likely that the cash will get used to boost the missile program, and probably the nuclear-arms program too.
So why lift sanctions seven years early? The timing tells us exactly why Obama did it. He wanted this deal to burnish his foreign-policy resumé in the short run, and he was willing to cough up practically anything to get it. That includes ransom payments for Americans who should have been freed as part of the original negotiations, and a cave from even the bad deal Obama and John Kerry had already signed. That, of course, prompts this question: What else have we given up?
Robot Chicken aptly demonstrates the Obama administration’s negotiating skills, with John Kerry in the role of Lando Calrissian. Or maybe it’s John Mary now. We’ll find out in the next leak, perhaps.