Report: Obama Already Eased Iran Sanctions Before Nuke Talks
Saturday, November 9, 2013 07:57 AM
By: Todd Beamon
The White House began easing economic sanctions that have crippled Iran for five years not long after its new president was elected in June — and months before Hassan Rouhani and President Barack Obama talked by telephone in September, State Department documents show.
The United States has done everything but stopped blacklisting individuals and companies that Iran evade international sanctions since Rouhani's election on June 14, The Daily Beast reports.
And the Obama administration has been doing less of that since the election, despite claims to the contrary, the website reports.
“In the months since the Iranian election we have continued to pursue our unwavering goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” a spokesman for the Treasury Department told the Daily Beast. “We have not let up on vigorous sanctions enforcement one iota.
"This includes new designations of sanctions evaders as well as other steps to address potential sanctions evasion,” the spokesman said.
Designating such violators has been crucial to the Obama administration's strategy to force Iran into abandoning its nuclear program — and they have been a factor in the current negotiations between Tehran, the U.S., and other world powers in Geneva this week.
Negotiations to curb Iran's nuclear efforts are in their third day on Saturday. Officials are optimistic, but said there still is no certainty of a deal.
"The negotiations taking place are about how Iran begins to meet its international obligations and provide assurances not just to us but to the entire world,” President Obama told NBC News on Thursday. They are “not about easing sanctions.”
But the administration on several occasions has indicted they are ready to lift sanctions. And Vice President Joe Biden last month urged that no new sanctions be imposed on Iran.
By isolating Iran's banks from global financial markets, for instance, the White House has forced Tehran to directly recruit companies or seek underground deals — or "cutouts" — to sell its crude oil or execute other financial dealings, the Daily Beast reports.
But in recent years, the Treasury Department has designated such entities as violators of the international sanctions.
More than 100 such news violators — individuals, companies, aircraft firms, among them — were cited by the U.S. in the six weeks before the June election, the Daily Beast reports.
Since then, however, Treasury has only issued two designation notices, identifying only six people and four companies for violating sanctions.
Further, experts told the Daily Beast that enforcing sanctions was far different from simply making new designations, with enforcement bringing fines and other legal action against violators.
In addition, the White House has been giving Iran sanctions relief in another way, Mark Dubowitz, the executive director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told the Daily Beast.
The group has worked with Congress and the White House to develop the current Tehran sanctions.
“For five months, since Rouhani’s election, the United States has offered Iran two major forms of sanctions relief,” Dubowitz said. “First, there’s been a significant slowdown in the pace of designations, while the Iranians are proliferating the number of front companies and cutouts to bust sanctions.”
The other way is through the Obama administration's opposition to new sanctions that have strong support on Capitol Hill.
Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, told The Wall Street Journal on Thursday that no decision would be made on further sanctions until after the Geneva talks ended.
Dubowitz estimated to the Daily Beast that Iran was selling as many as 200,000 barrels of oil every day on the underground market. The profiting of the illegal sale of more than 35 million barrels of oil since Rouhani's election comes with little obvious opposition from the United States, he said.
“Sounds like Obama decided to enter the Persian nuclear bazaar to haggle with the masters of negotiation and has had his head handed to him,” Dubowitz told the Daily Beast.