GOP Lawmakers Slam Administration’s Consideration Of Restoring Iran’s Access To Dollar


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Juliegrace Brufke Capitol Hill Reporter
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GOP lawmakers in both chambers of Congress have come out against the idea of lifting restrictions and loosening sanctions that prevent Iran from using U.S. currency in business transactions.

Department of Treasury officials first told the Associated Press they are prepared to grant a general license making the currency exchanges legal, while still keeping some of the restrictions in place.

In the wake of the reports, Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Mark Kirk of Illinois wrote a letter, dated March 30 and released Thursday, to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew,  expressing their concerns and warning the move could lead to further destabilization in the region.

The Republican senators highlighted that Iran breached their end of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran deal – which provided the country with billions of dollars, which many in Congress fear could be used to fuel terrorist activity – by testing ballistic missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead during the eight-year ban in the agreement.

During a Weednesday speech at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Lew said the country has held up its end of the agreement and it’s critical for the U.S. to lift the sanctions as promised.

“Any such efforts would benefit Iran’s financiers of international terrorism, human rights abuses, and ballistic missile threats while also ignoring the Treasury Department’s finding under Section 311 the USA PATRIOT Act that Iran’s entire financial sector is a jurisdiction of primary money laundering concern, and undermining ongoing calls by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) for countermeasures to protect international financial sectors from Iran’s terrorist financing,” Kirk and Rubio wrote. “We request corresponding assurances from you that the United States will not issue a general license authorizing ‘U-turn transactions’ for Iran, in which a U.S. bank processes a transaction for a foreign financial institution on behalf of Iran while the Iranian part of the transaction does not touch the U.S. financial system directly.”

The senators added they want full assurance the administration won’t assist the Iran in “gaining access to dollar payment systems outside the U.S. financial system.”

The reports also faced backlash in the lower chamber, with representatives including Majority Whip Steve Scalise, Rep. Randy Weber of Texas and even House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer saying Iran will gain leverage under the proposal.

“These reports are deeply concerning, to say the least. As Iran continues to undermine the spirit of its nuclear agreement with illicit ballistic missile tests, the Obama administration is going out of its way to help Tehran reopen for business,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement. “The president should abandon this idea.”

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