The Iranian sanctions are over. The United States has now officially returned 100 billion dollars in frozen assets to the Iranian government as required by last year’s nuclear deal between Tehran and Washington.
“These assets…have fully been released and we can use them,” said government spokesman Mohammad Bagher Nobakht.
If you’re negotiating a deal with a hostile party, it behooves you to ask who’s having who for breakfast.
The United States, as the world’s sole remaining superpower, should have had the Iranian rulers for breakfast. We should have eaten their lunch, too, while we were at it, but nope. Iran gets 100 billion dollars and we get…nothing.
Oh, sure, we get “promises” from the Iranian government that it won’t build nuclear weapons, and inspectors get limited access to old nuclear facilities, but even if Iran never cheats and never builds a bomb, the best we can say is that we paid Iran off so it wouldn’t do something horrible.
The word for that is blackmail. Blackmail is a crime for a reason—because the blackmailed person or party gets robbed.
A good deal with Iran would have required the government—at minimum—to cease and desist all funding of international terrorist organizations. Instead, this deal enables the regime to dramatically increase its support for international terrorist organizations.
But okay, let’s be super optimistic here and assume Iran will use 99 percent of its treasure chest for peaceful purposes and economic development. Only one percent goes to terrorists.
Iran’s baseline funding for Hezbollah, its most powerful terrorist proxy in Lebanon and Syria, is at most 200 million dollars a year. If it earmarks just one percent of its 100 billion dollars to Hezbollah—just one billion dollars—that would boost Hezbollah’s cash infusion by a factor of five.
If Iran earmarks ten percent of its treasure chest to terrorism, it could send fifty times as much money and weapons to Hezbollah or its other murderous playthings as it has in the past.
Let me say that again. If Iran uses 90 percent of its releases assets peacefully, it could still spend fifty times as much money on terrorism as it used to.
A lot of people were worried about this, not just in the United States, but also in Israel, the Arab world and even in Europe. Secretary of State John Kerry tried to downplay it.
“Sanctions relief will pour lots of money into Iran,” James Robbins said to him during an interview with the BBC last summer. “There must be a considerable risk they’ll spend at least some of that money supporting extremist terrorist groups who they’ve supported in the past.”
“What Iran has done for years with Hizballah does not depend on money,” Kerry said.
Let’s stop right there for a second. Can any serious person actually believe that? Iran isn’t giving Hezbollah moral support the way, say, the United States used to give moral support to Cubans languishing under the Castro regime. No. Iran gives Hezbollah sophisticated weapons and money. Obviously that depends on Iran having money. There is no way around this. Kerry would be right if Iran simply grandstanded impotently on the sidelines, but Iran not only supports Hezbollah, it created Hezbollah with money, weapons and training. All of which costs money.
“What Iran is doing,” Kerry continued, “and by the way, they’re fighting ISIL and helping Iraq in many ways, but that has not depended on money. So sure, something may go additionally somewhere. But if President Rouhani and his administration do not take care of the people of Iran, they will have an enormous problem.”
Fighting ISIS costs money. “Helping” Iraq with Shia militias costs extraordinary amounts of money.
It’s true, of course, that the Iranian government will have an enormous problem if no money goes into the Iranian economy. But Iran could pour 90 percent of its sanctions relief into the Iranian economy and still have an amount left over that’s 50 times greater than the baseline Hezbollah budget. The government is not facing an either-or proposition here. Not even close. It’s easy to do lots of different things if you suddenly find yourself 100 billion dollars richer.
John Kerry is more honest about this today. He might as well be. The deal is done. No point obfuscating the obvious anymore.
“I think that some of it will end up in the hands of the [Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps] or other entities,” he said during a recent interview in Davos, Switzerland, “some of which are labeled terrorists. You know, to some degree, I'm not going to sit here and tell you that every component of that can be prevented.”
The United States won’t be able to prevent any “component of that,” as Kerry put it, not even by breaking the deal and reimposing sanctions all over again, because Iran already has its assets back.
One could make the case that this is nevertheless an improvement over the status quo ante, that it’s better to have a powerful terrorist-supporting Iran than an Iran with nuclear weapons, and it’s better than the cost of a huge war to cripple of remove the Iranian government.
And maybe that’s true. But where does that leave us?
The Iranian government has been a malignant force since the day it seized power in 1979. It has taken diplomats hostage, destabilized one neighboring state after another—beginning with Lebanon, then moving to Iraq, Syria, Bahrain and Yemen—and created terrorist armies that have killed Americans, Israelis, Iraqis, Lebanese, Syrians and—yes—even Argentines.
The Iranian government has done all this without nuclear weapons. The only reason it wasn’t able to wreak even more havoc is because it was crippled by sanctions.
That’s over now.
Even if this nuclear deal “works,” if Iran never develops nuclear weapons, the Iranian government will be able to a far more destructive role in the Middle East than it ever has in the past. And it’s already by far the most troublesome.
“Right now,” Kerry said, trying to make everyone feel better, “we are not seeing the early delivery of funds going to that kind of endeavor at this point in time.”
Of course not. Iran is only just now getting the 100 billion. Iran hadn’t even received it yet when he said that. We can’t track every dollar it spends anyway, and it wouldn’t make any difference if we could. The Iranian government can allocate funds however it wants. It doesn’t matter if Iran uses the 100 billion in sanctions relief to fund terrorism directly or indirectly. Iran is going to do it one way or another.
It’s not even controversial anymore. Kerry himself says it’s going to happen.
“If we catch them funding terrorism,” he said, “they are going to have a problem with the United States Congress and other people, obviously.”
Why should we have to catch them? We already know it’s going to happen. Iran has been funding terrorism for decades. Iran hasn’t stopped funding terrorism for even five seconds since the day it started.
We can safely assume that since Iran funded terrorism yesterday, and that since the sun came up this morning, Iran is still funding terrorism today. And unless the government is overthrown before midnight tonight, it’s safe to assume that Iran will continue funding terrorism tomorrow.
Iran’s rulers haven’t even pretended to stop, so let’s just cut through the b.s. and assume we’ve already “caught” them so we can figure out what we’re going to do about it.