Iran May Have Received as Much as
$33.6 Billion in Cash, Gold Payments from U.S.
By Adam Kredo
Washington Free Beacon
September 8, 2016
Iran may have received an
additional $33.6 billion in secret cash and gold payments facilitated by
the Obama administration between 2014 and 2016, according to testimony provided
before Congress by an expert on last summer’s nuclear agreement with Iran.
Between January 2014 and July
2015, when the Obama administration was hammering out the final details of the
nuclear accord, Iran was paid $700 million every month from funds that had
previously been frozen by U.S. sanctions.
A total of $11.9 billion was
ultimately paid to Iran, but the details surrounding these payments remain
shrouded in mystery, according
to Mark Dubowitz, executive director at the Foundation for Defense of
In total, “Iran may have
received as much as $33.6 billion in cash or in gold and other precious
metals,” Dubowitz disclosed.
New questions about these payments
are emerging following confirmation from top Obama administration officials on
Thursday that it was forced to pay Iran $1.7 billion in cash prior to the
release of several U.S. hostages earlier this year. The administration
insisted that cash had to be used for this payment.
Top administration officials were
adamant that the cash payments were the best way to ensure that Iran got
immediate access to this money due to its ongoing difficulty accessing
international funds still sanctioned by the West.
Lawmakers and others are now
pressing the administration to disclose how a slew of other payments to Iran
were made in the years leading up to the final nuclear accord.
“In July, the Associated Press
cited U.S. officials who estimated that Iran ‘brought home less than $20
billion.’ Were these funds repatriated to Tehran in cash or in gold and
precious metals? Through the formal financial system? Or through some
combination?” Dubowitz asked in his testimony before the House Financial
“The administration should also
clarify if the $20 billion dollars is inclusive of the $11.9 billion in [Joint
Plan of Action] funds, or if the $20 billion was in addition to the $11.9
billion,” he said. “Either way, it is important to understand how funds were
sent. The worst-case scenario here is that Iran may have received as much as
$33.6 billion in cash or in gold and other precious metals.”
At least some of this money was
likely sent in cash and other assets, according to Dubowitz.
The Obama administration was
forced to disclose on Thursday that current sanctions and banking restrictions
prohibited it from transferring funds to Iran via electronic methods.
The cash payment of $1.7 billion
earlier this year was the easiest way to ensure Iran got immediate access to the
money, according to these officials.
“Iran had to have it in cash,”
Paul Ahern, assistant general counsel for enforcement and intelligence at the
Treasury Department, told lawmakers. “Iran was very aware of the difficulties
it would face in accessing and using the funds if they were in any other form
than cash, even after the lifting of sanctions.”
A cash delivery “was the most
reliable way that they received the funds in a timely manner and it was the
manner preferred by the relative foreign banks,” Ahren said.
Given the situation, it is likely
that the multiple past payments to Iran were conducted in a similar fashion,
according to Dubowitz.
“If the White House could only
send cash to Iran from the start of the JPOA period through the Tribunal payment
that could amount to a grant total of 33.6 billion,” he said. “Did any of
this money go through the formal financial system? If so, the administration is
not being truthful about the 1.7 billion. If many billions arrived in Iran on
pallets [of cash] this would be a pretty astounding revelation.”
Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon
official and expert on rogue regimes, said that cash payments of this nature are
“There’s no reason it needed
to be paid now. After all, successive administrations, both Democratic and
Republican, have delayed payments so as to avoid funding Iranian terrorism,”
Rubin said. “Likewise, if the United States freezes accounts linked to al
Qaeda or Hamas, releasing it and saying, ‘It’s their money anyway,’ would
not be a tenable explanation. Cash payments are highly irregular.”
The Iranians have been clear that
they “perceived the payment to be a ransom” despite the administration’s
protestations, Rubin explained.
“Not only has the delivery of
the millions of dollars been perceived as a ransom, provided as an incentive to
seize more hostages …. but because the money was delivered in cash the payment
bolstered the strength of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and augmented
its ability to finance and conduct terrorism,” he said.