When the jaw-dropping details of the Obama administration’s alleged decision to spike Project Cassandra emerged late last year—quashing a multi-agency investigation of a cars-for-cocaine terrorist financing scheme—it raised questions about just how far Team Obama was willing to go in appeasing Iran to pursue its nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Lending credence to Josh Meyer’s Politico exposé, the Iran deal echo chamber grew cacophonous, characteristically chiding the author’s sources because of their supposed aversion to the deal itself, rather than grappling with the substance of the sources’ claims and the author’s corroborating research.
As dumbfounding as it may have been for the Obama administration to supposedly knowingly permit a multi-billion-dollar terrorist-subsidizing drug ring to operate on U.S. soil so as not to scuttle Iran deal negotiations, 2018 began with the conclusion of a high-profile court case illuminating illicit Iranian financing schemes executed during the Obama years of even greater magnitude. The Obama administration’s related actions raise questions regarding its tolerance for Iran’s flouting of laws during Iran deal negotiations, without any apparent consequence. These questions demand answers.
Paying Jihadis in Violation of U.S. Laws
A former U.S. Treasury official and current senior vice president at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), Jonathan Schanzer, with his colleagues extensively researched and briefed federal officials on these Iranian activities. He explores the case in a gripping article in The Atlantic aptly titled “The Biggest Sanctions-Evasion Scheme in Recent History.”
The trial focused on sanctions-busting schemes crafted by gold-trading Iranian-Turkish national Reza Zarrab that not only lined the pockets of Zarrab and high-ranking Turkish politicos with millions of dollars, but filled the Khomeinist Iranian regime’s coffers with potentially upwards of $100 billion, both as the United States ratcheted up sanctions in the run-up to Iran deal negotiations and contemporaneous with the negotiations themselves.
As Schanzer reports, Zarrab
helped Iran evade sanctions with the help of Turkish banks in 2013 and 2014, yielding Iran an estimated $13 billion [via a sanctions-violating Iran-Turkey “gas-for-gold” trade] at the height of the efforts to thwart Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. A leaked report by prosecutors in Istanbul in March 2014 suggested that Zarrab spearheaded a second sanctions-busting scheme involving fake invoices for billions more in fictitious humanitarian shipments to Iran that were processed through Turkish banks.
It is bad enough that the sanctions-evasion efforts succeeded, underwriting the world’s leading state sponsor of jihad to the tune of billions of dollars. But a parenthetical in Schanzer’s account adds another perhaps more disturbing layer to the story. He writes:
Despite the headlines generated by the gold trade and leaked report, the Turkish government insisted that everything was above board. The Obama administration seemed to echo this sentiment, saying that the gold trade had slipped through a legal loophole (a loophole the White House inexplicably left open for an additional six months, even after the problem was flagged).
Schanzer links to a May 2013 report produced by FDD and Roubini Global Economics that analyzes the loophole Iran exploited. According to that report, in spite of an executive order issued in July 2012 and more robust legislation signed into law in January 2013 placing sanctions on gold exports to any Iranian entity, Iran received more than $6 billion in gold in exchange for energy exports between July 2012 and the May 2013 report date.
To put that number in perspective, Project Cassandra sources asserted that Hezbollah was collecting a relatively paltry $1 billion per year from all of its criminal activities.
Looks Like the Obama Administration Created a ‘Loophole’
How is it possible that the “gas-for-gold” trade continued apace in the face of the U.S. sanction regime? The Obama administration chose not to apply the sanctions until July 1, 2013. The report notes:
At negotiations with Iran in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on April 5, 2013, the P5+1 countries reportedly offered Iran concessions, including the ability to trade in gold, in exchange for reciprocal concessions on Iran’s nuclear program. Although Iran did not accept the proposal, President Obama’s U.S. administration has not placed sanctions on gold exports to Iran, even though it has asserted explicit authority to do so since July 2012 through Executive Order 13622. This amounts to providing sanctions relief to Iran through the non-enforcement of existing sanctions, and appears to have led to a pickup in gold sales, providing Iran with an economic lifeline to earn hard currency through the sale of gold.
In other words, Iran did not so much exploit a loophole as the Obama administration purposefully left it wide open.
Was the Obama administration really comfortable allowing billions of dollars in gold to flood Iran in clear violation of its own sanctions? What did it know about Iran’s gas-for-gold trade, and when did it know it?
Bear in mind, this “loophole” is a mere footnote in a single sanctions-evasion case that the United States litigated, just as Project Cassandra was merely one multi-agency investigation into Hezbollah’s illegal activities.
It is inconceivable that these are the only two instances of the Obama administration in effect aiding Iran in its illegal activities, lest the mullahs get angry and walk away from the table, clearly to the detriment of America’s national interest.
The American people deserve the answers to some related questions: What other investigations, military operations, or intelligence activities did the Obama administration disrupt on account of the Iran deal negotiations? How did the Obama administration’s desire to achieve a deal with Iran affect U.S. policy vis-à-vis countries like Turkey in the case of Zarrab, or Russia in the case of Project Cassandra? Is there any action Iran could have taken that would have caused the Obama administration to step away from the negotiation table?
Officials Who Hurt America Should Be Held Accountable
We have learned any number of sickening things in the months since Iran deal was consummated, beginning with an “Iransom” that alone should have discredited the Obama administration’s major second-term “achievement” and tarnished the records of all those who helped consummate it. More will likely filter out as the distance grows from the Obama presidency, although the attack on the author of the Project Cassandra exposé was no doubt meant to chill all such future efforts.
It would be a tragedy for these questions to sit unanswered for the cause of America’s security and justice itself. If the Iran deal was consummated in the face of all manner of malicious actions, the public ought to know the truth so we can understand the nature of the regime with whom we are dealing, and learn from the failings of the prior administration.
In fact, so should the citizens protesting the Iranian regime in streets across the country. Contrary to the urgings of Obama national security advisor Susan Rice, we must not remain silent in the face of a fascistic Islamic theocracy where democracy dies in darkness. We should be exposing its horrors daily.
If members of the Obama administration knowingly took actions detrimental to the national interest, they need to be held accountable, not for political retribution but to ensure future administrations do not undertake similarly destructive actions believing they will pay no price for unconscionable actions.
Let us not forget that beyond the current protests, the Obama administration’s policies are not ancient history but very live subjects. In just a few days, President Trump will have to decide whether to continue granting temporary waivers of sanctions on Iran, as well as certifying whether Iran is living up to its obligations under the accord. Moreover, the Trump administration has indicated a desire to deal comprehensively with Iran’s imperialist ambitions and jihadist activities, many of which touch on problems that festered on the Obama administration’s watch.
Will there be justice for those responsible for foisting the Chamberlainian Iran deal on the American people on the heels of a series of disasters Obamaites created in the run-up to its signing? This is not a rhetorical question.