Remember when Barack Obama paid Iran $1.7 billion to settle an old trade dispute? That payment was separate from the issue of Iran’s frozen assets in the West; this was a payment on old claims from Tehran at the time of the 1979 revolution, not funds and assets that got blocked. It came after the nuclear deal that freed the frozen assets, and also coincidentally occurred in parallel with a prisoner release that Obama and John Kerry had refused to include in the nuclear-deal talks. Critics accused Obama and Kerry of funding Iran’s military and terror operations with the payoff, a charge that Kerry didn’t entirely refute at the time:
“I think that some of it will end up in the hands of the IRGC or other entities, some of which are labeled terrorists,” he said in the interview in Davos, referring to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. “You know, to some degree, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that every component of that can be prevented.”
But he added that “right now, we are not seeing the early delivery of funds going to that kind of endeavor at this point in time.”
Actually, we are seeing that with the $1.7 billion payoff — and in its entirety, too. Bloomberg’s Eli Lake reports that the entire payment has been assigned to the IRGC, and that Iran’s openly bragging about it, too:
For months it was unclear what Iran’s government would do with this money. But last month the mystery was solved when Iran’s Guardian Council approved the government’s 2017 budget that instructed Iran’s Central Bank to transfer the $1.7 billion to the military.
Saeed Ghasseminejad, an associate fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, spotted the budget item. He told me the development was widely reported in Iran by numerous sources including the state-funded news services. “Article 22 of the budget for 2017 says the Central Bank is required to give the money from the legal settlement of Iran’s pre- and post-revolutionary arms sales of up to $1.7 billion to the defense budget,” he said. …
In January, many observers, including [Rep. Mike] Pompeo, said the transfer was more like a ransom payment because it coincided with the release of five Americans detained in Iran. The Iranian commander of the Basiji militia, Mohammad Reza Naghdi, said at the time: “Taking this much money back was in return for the release of the American spies.” The White House disputed this claim and said the payment was independent of the negotiation to release the American prisoners.
In any case, Pompeo is angry. “The fact that U.S. taxpayers appear to be funding Iran’s military is outrageous,” he told me.
Look at the bright side. The White House finally found a way around the defense sequester. Too bad it benefits a country that openly swears to destroy us, but hey, there’s no such thing as a perfect solution. At least, let’s hope so.
Besides, this is becoming a tradition. Last weekend, former UN ambassador John Bolton reminded New York Post readers about how Iran duped another Democrat in the White House:
As reported by the BBC, the Ayatollah Khomeini, in January 1979, secretly sought Carter’s assistance in overcoming opposition from Iran’s military, still loyal to the shah. Khomeini promised that if he could return to Iran from exile in France, which the United States could facilitate, he would prevent a civil war, and his regime would not be hostile to Washington.
The soon-to-be Supreme Leader of Iran certainly knew a sucker when he saw one. What Carter did in response to Khomeini’s pledge is not entirely clear from the newly declassified materials, but Khomeini did return; the military either fell into line or was ruthlessly purged; and Iran switched 180 degrees from being a strategic US ally to being one of our most implacable adversaries.
Carter’s unwillingness to back the shah, a staunch American ally, has long been well-known, despite constant protestations of support at the time. Khomeini could not then, however, have relied on that for certain. Within Carter’s administration, hostility to the shah over his human-rights record, a centerpiece of Carter’s policy, was certainly extensive. …
The shah was no Jeffersonian democrat, but can anyone seriously argue that 35 years of authoritarian rule by religious extremists have been more favorable to human rights in Iran? And can anyone doubt that Iran’s seismic shift from being a strategic ally of the United States to being a terrorist-sponsoring nuclear proliferator has not left the Middle East and the wider world a more dangerous and unstable place?
The new documents, sadly, reveal how gullible an American president can be, how naïve and otherworldly and how oblivious to the real-world consequences of his decisions. Apparently, we have learned precious little from the shah’s overthrow.