In other words, the Obama administration: (1) told Congress it would not allow Iran access to US financial institutions; (2) issued a special license allowing Iran to do exactly that; (3) unsuccessfully pressured USA banks to help Iran; (4) lied to Congress and the American people about what it had done; (5) admitted in internal emails that these efforts "exceeded" USA obligations under the nuclear deal; (6) sent officials, including bank regulators, around the world to urge foreign financial institutions to do business with Iran; and (7) promised that they would get nothing more than a slap on the wrist for violating USA sanctions.
The majority report of the Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations said the Treasury Department issued a specific license on February 24, 2016 to an Omani bank allowing it to convert $5.7 billion in funds it was holding for Iran into euros. If the Omani bank had allowed the exchange without such a license, it would have violated sanctions that bar Iran from transactions that touch the US financial system. "Even after the specific license was issued, USA government officials maintained in congressional testimony that Iran would not be granted access to the US financial system".
"The Obama administration misled the American people and Congress because they were desperate to get a deal with Iran", Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who chairs the panel.
"The Obama Administration is now accused of trying to give Iran secret access to the financial system of the United States".
But in the end, Treasury officials concluded that the transaction was legal. "For example, during a [pro-Iran] roadshow in London in March 2015 with representatives from 10 major global financial institutions, the head of the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Asset Compliance [OFAC] assured attendees that '95 percent of the time OFAC sees an apparent violation it results in a simple warning letter or no enforcement action, '" according to minutes of these meetings.
"Sanctions are a vital foreign policy tool, and the US government should never work to actively undermine their enforcement or effectiveness", said a statement from Portman. That official wrote to his Iranian counterpart that the specific license "exceeded" the USA commitments under the JCPOA.
The accusations were rejected by Obama administration officials who said Republicans are trying to make a one-time effort to meet obligations under the nuclear deal sound like an attempt to give Iran broad access to the USA financial system.
Obama administration officials said the decision to grant the license had been made in line with the spirit of the deal, which included allowing Iran to regain access to foreign reserves that had been off-limits because of the sanctions.
President Donald Trump exhibits a signed Presidential Memorandum after delivering an announcement on the Iran nuclear deal from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White Home, Might 8, 2018, in Washington.
Speaking factors ready for Lew earlier than congressional testimony stated he ought to disclose the precise license "if pressed".
USA sanctions block Iran from exchanging the money on its own. In his testimony, Secretary Lew did not disclose the specific license authorizing Iran to access the USA financial system. The global financial system is heavily intertwined with USA banks, making it almost impossible to conduct many worldwide transactions without touching NY in one way or another. That move continues to roil relations with European allies who are sticking with the Iran deal. The U.S. dollar is the world's dominant currency, so allowing it to be used as a conversion instrument for Iranian assets was the easiest and most efficient way to speed up Iran's access to its own funds.
- Informed future negotiations with Iran.
In July 2015 then-Treasury Secretary Jack Lew told lawmakers Iran "will continue to be denied access to the world's largest financial and commercial market", referring to the U.S.
The Administration was crystal clear to Congress on this point.
- Transparency on other sanctions relief granted to Iran and whether this relief also exceeded the scope of the JCPOA or contradicted public statements by Obama administration officials. OFAC officials should also refrain from telling foreign persons and entities that violations of US sanctions only result in an enforcement action five percent of the time.