Iran will gain immediate access to billions of dollars in cash assets on the day a new nuclear accord is signed, money that will flow to Tehran’s top terror organizations before Congress has a chance to review the deal, former senior U.S. officials and experts told the Washington Free Beacon.
Sanctioned entities linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC)—the country’s paramilitary fighting force that is trying to assassinate U.S. officials—will receive a massive influx of cash the moment the deal is signed. The Biden administration will also release some $7 billion in frozen assets tied to IRGC funding “prior to a single day of congressional review,” Richard Goldberg, former director for countering Iranian weapons of mass destruction on the White House National Security Council, told the Free Beacon.
“While Iran is actively trying to assassinate former U.S. officials and kidnap Iranian Americans, the Biden administration is offering Iran billions in upfront sanctions relief for the IRGC prior to a single day of congressional review,” Goldberg said. Other former U.S. officials who worked on the Iran portfolio estimate that about 172 sanctions will be lifted before the deal is submitted to Congress.
As the Biden administration and its European allies inch closer to securing a revamped version of the 2015 nuclear accord, former officials like Goldberg say Iran’s global terrorism enterprise stands to receive an immediate boost in cash and clout as sanctions that handicapped Tehran’s militant operations are lifted before Congress gets the chance to exercise its legal mandate to review and approve the deal. This day-one sanctions relief is part of a concessions package crafted by the United States to assure Iran that it will get access to hard currency even if Congress rejects the deal and pushes to maintain sanctions on the hardline regime.
While the Biden administration is barred from lifting sanctions before Congress reviews the deal, the White House is reportedly considering a workaround that will go into effect at the moment the deal is signed. President Joe Biden is expected to cancel three Trump administration executive orders that authorized sanctions on entities tied to Iran’s IRGC, according to former U.S. officials and a recent policy analysis published by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), a nonpartisan think tank.
The executive orders authorized sanctions on Iranian financial institutions, its petrochemical and automotive sectors, and its manufacturing industry, as well as its mining, construction, and textile sectors. If Biden cancels these sanctions, a large tranche of cash will immediately become accessible.
This includes $7 billion in funds parked in international accounts that “will reportedly be unfrozen prior to congressional review pursuant to” the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, or INARA. The act was overwhelmingly passed by Congress in 2015 after the Obama administration inked the original accord without consulting the legislative body.
Iran’s National Oil Company and Central Bank will be poised to receive these funds once sanctions are lifted. Both entities are designated under terrorism sanctions for their financing of the IRGC’s Quds Force, which orchestrates terror attacks across the Middle East. Later on in the deal, terrorism sanctions on both of these entities will be lifted.
“Since this release is clearly tied to the nuclear deal negotiations, issuing a [sanctions] waiver before submitting the deal to Congress would be an even more brazen circumvention of INARA,” according to FDD’s analysis.
The Iranian sectors slated to get this sanctions relief generate an estimated 20 to 25 percent of Tehran’s GDP and 62 to 73 percent of its non-oil exports, according to FDD. “Rescinding these executive orders may provide Iran with sanctions-free access to least $30 billion in annual export revenue, or more than $13.5 billion over the reported 165-day interim deal period—with that number growing after sanctions are lifted,” the foundation predicts.
The initial $7 billion in cash—which will later be accompanied by around a trillion dollars in sanctions relief if the deal is approved—is part of a ransom payment paid by the United States for the release of four American hostages. That money has been frozen in South Korean banks but will be “remitted back to the Central Bank of Iran,” according to Gabriel Noronha, a former senior Iran adviser at the State Department during the Trump administration.
Noronha said this money is certain to be used by Tehran to fund its global terrorism operations.
“We have a clear precedent how they will use those funds,” Noronha said. “In 2016, President Obama’s $1.7 billion ransom was sent from the Central Bank of Iran to the IRGC’s budget account, which was then used to supercharge their terror activities.”
Iranian officials even suggested at the time that “further hostage-taking would serve as an excellent method of balancing their budget,” according to Noronha, who is a distinguished fellow at the Jewish Institute for National Security of America. “The Central Bank of Iran was also sanctioned by the Trump administration under terrorism designations for facilitating the transfer of billions in dollars and euros to the IRGC. The past is certain to repeat itself, and Biden’s hostage deal would just pay for more Americans to be taken captive.”
Further sanctions relief on the negotiating table would impact the Iranian government organization that funds assassination plots and puts bounties on the country’s political enemies, such as author Salman Rushdie, the recent victim of a brutal stabbing attack.
Behnam Ben Taleblu, an Iran sanctions expert at FDD, said Iran’s regime has made it abundantly clear it will not spend its cash windfalls on bettering its economy and people.
“Releasing frozen funds to the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism essentially puts Tehran’s terror apparatus on steroids. That’s akin to trying to put out one fire while causing another,” Ben Taleblu said. “Regardless of the status of the IRGC’s terrorism designation, a deal that still stands to offer major relief for other terror funding entities in Iran makes little strategic sense.”
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