As if granting Iran international permission to have a nuclear weapons program (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action –JCPOA) and approximately $150 billion weren’t enough, we’ve recently learned that the Obama Administration also agreed to lift United Nations (UN) sanctions on the “financial linchpin of Iran’s missile procurement network” – Bank Sepah. The American public and Congress were told that Bank Sepah was not supposed to receive sanctions relief until 2023. This was, simply put, not true.
In this secret deal, Iran petitioned to have sanctions on this specific bank lifted in exchange for American prisoners. Why did Iran specifically list this bank when there are many other financial institutions that received sanctions relief immediately from the nuclear deal? Because it is the “financial linchpin” of Iran’s missile program. If the President sincerely desired to limit Iran’s ballistic missile program, then he never would have agreed to provide sanctions relief to Bank Sepah. The U.S. Treasury Department, the United Nations, and many other world powers have recognized the vital role of Bank Sepah in Iran’s ballistic missile program.
In January I outlined the dangers of providing sanctions relief to Bank Sepah due to its historical and current ties to Iran’s ballistic missile program. I hoped to make a case that sanctions on this bank should be maintained, if not strengthened. Little did I know that this secret deal was already decided on and it was going to be impossible to keep sanctions on Bank Sepah.
President Obama, on January 17th, 2016, promised the American people that he would continue to enforce the sanctions on Iran for its ballistic missile program:
“Of course, even as we implement the nuclear deal and welcome our Americans home, we recognize that there remain profound differences between the United States and Iran. We remain steadfast in opposing Iran’s destabilizing behavior elsewhere, including its threats against Israel and our Gulf partners, and its support for violent proxies in places like Syria and Yemen. We still have sanctions on Iran for its violations of human rights, for its support of terrorism, and for its ballistic missile program. And we will continue to enforce these sanctions, vigorously. Iran’s recent missile test, for example, was a violation of its international obligations. And as a result, the United States is imposing sanctions on individuals and companies working to advance Iran’s ballistic missile program. And we are going to remain vigilant about it. We’re not going to waver in the defense of our security or that of our allies and partners.”
This speech was given on the very same day that President Obama signed the secret agreement to provide sanctions relief to Bank Sepah. The President said the U.S. would “continue to enforce sanctions on individuals and companies working to advance Iran’s ballistic missile program,” even as he agreed to secretly remove those sanctions from Bank Sepah. Americans have the right to be furious over this revelation. This act is quite contrary to “remaining steadfast” and continuing to “enforce these sanctions vigorously.”
Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, unashamedly proclaims that the Islamic Republic’s “missile capability is not open to any form of negotiations or compromise.” His statement is not a convoluted one, but rather is quite clear – Iran will not allow its ballistic missile program to be limited in any way. And this is exactly what has happened. The Pentagon informed Congress in its annual report that Iran has developed more advanced ballistic missiles since the signing of the JCPOA. In December 2015 the Iranians conducted a medium range ballistic missile test with the Ghadr-110 which can carry a nuclear warhead. In March 2016 Iran tested multiple missiles within two days. And once again, in July 2016, Iran demonstrated its defiance to ballistic missile restrictions with a test of yet another ballistic missile.
On September 25, 2016, Tasnim News Agency reported that Iran launched its newest model of ballistic missile – Zolfaqar. If Iran was pursuing a domestic nuclear program, then why does it need new ballistic missiles capable of carrying warheads?
We have already given up so much to the Iranians for a deal that trumps wisdom, common sense, international law, and American values. Now we find out there have been even more concessions to Iran, this time the early removal of sanctions on Bank Sepah. And it is probably a safe bet that more concessions will be revealed over time.
This deal is getting worse and worse all the time. The next president needs to kill it.