At a Pentagon press briefing on Thursday, US President Barack Obama stated the deal with Iran, lifting economic sanctions in exchange for limiting their nuclear program, was a total success, and fears by opponents of the deal that Tehran would use the money to finance global terror have not materialized. This bold statement by the Commander-in-Chief came in the aftermath of the embarrassing revelation that the US paid $400 million simultaneously with the release of four Americans held in Iranian prisons.
“It has been well over a year since the agreement with Iran to stop its nuclear program was signed. And by all accounts it has worked exactly the way we said it was going to work,” said the president.
Though it is clearly true that Iran has not initiated a nuclear strike in the past five months, they have violated UN limitations on their missile program several times, and were caught covertly attempting to acquire illegal nuclear technology in Germany and China.
“You will recall that there were all these horror stories about how Iran was going to cheat, and this wasn’t going to work, and Iran was going to get $150 billion to finance terrorism and all these kinds of scenarios. And none of them have come to pass,” continued Obama.
President Obama made a similar declaration of the deal’s success last month. His claims of a full year of success are premature and misleading, as Implementation Day, when the process of lifting economic sanctions against Iran, took place in January of this year, a full five months after the deal was agreed upon.
Surprisingly, President Obama cited Israel as a proponent of the deal’s success. This would be a significant change in policy for the Israeli government, since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was the deal’s most vocal opponent.
“And it’s not just the assessment of our intelligence community. It’s the assessment of the Israeli military and intelligence community,” he stressed. “The country that was most opposed to this deal that acknowledges this has been a game-changer that Iran has abided by the deal that they no longer have the sort of short term breakout capacity that would allow them to develop nuclear weapons.”
President Obama did not go into detail or cite the supportive Israeli sources. No response from the Israeli government has been reported.
The press briefing focused on a transfer on the unusual transfer of cash. President Obama explained the questionable cash exchange was part of a dispute over a failed military equipment deal with the former Shah of Iran dating to the 1970s. Pallets of bills shipped to the Iranian government in January on a commercial airliner, at the same time the nuclear deal was settled and the Americans were released.
“This wasn’t some nefarious deal,” Obama said. “The only bit of news is that we paid cash,” he said. “The reason is because we couldn’t send them a check and we couldn’t wire the money. We don’t have a banking relationship with Iran which is part of the pressure we applied on them.”
Transactions with Iran in US dollars are still against the law, so the equivalent value was flown into Iran in Euros, Swiss francs, and other currencies from banks in Switzerland and the Netherlands on January 17. Though flown in on the same day the American prisoners were released, senior US officials told the Wall Street Journal that the payment and the prisoner exchange were purely coincidental. The Iranian press has portrayed the cash payment as a victory over America, forcing the US government to pay ransom for the prisoners.