Obama-era license aimed to let Iran convert money in dollars

Scott R-S.C. left and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell R-Ky. to talk about work on overhauling the nation's tax code on Capitol Hill in Washington Tuesday Nov. 1

Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Wednesday issued a statement in response to the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations report that showed the Obama Administration secretly authorized Iranian access to the U.S. financial system in order to hasten the nuclear deal. What's more, they dismissed the report as another example of a faulty approach to Iran policy by Republicans and by President Donald Trump, who last month withdrew the US from the landmark 2015 nuclear accord.

Despite this, OFAC provided Bank Muscat with a specific license in February 2016, authorizing roughly $5.7 billion worth in Iranian assets to be processed through the USA financial system, the report says. Its report details instances where officials including Treasury Secretary Jack Lew told Congress the Iran nuclear agreement - also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action - would deny Iran access to the USA financial and commercial markets, despite the side deal's existence.

Senior U.S. government officials repeatedly testified to Congress that Iranian access to the U.S. financial system was not on the table or part of any deal. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), subcommittee chairman.

"Now a Senate investigation has revealed the Obama administration was even working in secret to circumvent the weaker sanctions left over from the nuclear deal - and they were lying to Congress about it". This would have sidestepped US sanctions still in place.

Most specifically, on February 24, 2016, the Treasury Department granted authorization for $5.7 billion in Iranian assets to be routed from a bank in Oman through a bank in the USA and then on to a European bank.

According to the subcommittee, Iran had $5.7 billion in assets in the Omani bank, and wanted to convert it via the US financial system as it was the most efficient means, "even though USA sanctions prohibited it", according to the report.

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Shortly after the nuclear deal was sealed in July 2015, then-Treasury Secretary Jack Lew testified that even with the sanctions relief, Iran "will continue to be denied access to the world's largest financial and commercial market".

Issuing the license was not illegal. 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.

Under the Iran deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Iran was promised access to overseas reserves of its own funds that had been frozen by sanctions.

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.

The $5.7 billion was frozen in Oman's Bank Muscat in that country's currency, the rial, which is pegged to the United States dollar and hard to convert. They said the Republican senators never interviewed former Obama administration officials involved and noted that no Democrats were involved.

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