the Trump Team Comes Looking for the Secrets of Obama’s Iran File
cordial meeting between President-elect Donald Trump and President Barack Obama
was a reassuring ritual of democracy. But Obama was far from convincing when he
told Trump "we are now going to do everything we can to help you
succeed." There are some highly disparate ideas here about what constitutes
success, both foreign and domestic. There are also big areas in which one might
reasonably wonder if Obama and his team are in a quandary over the prospect of a
Trump administration inheriting the internal records of the most transparent
for instance, the Iran nuclear deal, Obama's signature foreign policy legacy,
the chief accomplishment of his second term. The Obama administration's Iran
file has been a realm
of murk, crammed with dangerous concessions and secret side deals for
terror-sponsoring Tehran -- to a degree that has left some critics wondering if
Obama's real aim was to empower
Iran as the hegemon of the Middle East (equipped with ballistic
missiles to complement its "exclusively
peaceful" nuclear program).
cherry on top -- officially separate from the nuclear deal, but highly
coincident -- was the Obama administration's secret conveyance to Iran early
this year of cash totaling $1.7 billion for the settlement of an old claim
against the United States.
Obama's other legacy achievement, the unaffordable Affordable Care Act, a.k.a.
Obamacare, these Iran dealings were so intricate, extensive and opaque that we
are still discovering just
how duplicitous the official narratives were. Obama never submitted the
Iran nuclear deal as a treaty for ratification by the Senate. Instead, he rushed
the deal to the United Nations Security Council for approval less than a week
after the final text was announced, and left Congress wrestling through the
ensuing weeks, during the summer of 2015, to try to extract vital details from
the elusive Obama and his team, subject to a legislative bargain so convoluted
that the process, and the deal, never came to a vote.
simplicity's sake, let's focus on the $1.7 billion "settlement" paid
to Iran, which Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, apparently with no prior
notice to Congress, announced this past January. Obama and Kerry did not
mention at the time that the administration was shelling out the funds in cash,
to be airlifted into Iran -- a form of payment especially handy for Iran's
illicit ventures, such as terrorism and procurement for its ballistic missile
program (the usual role of ballistic missiles -- which Iran has continued
testing -- being to carry nuclear weapons, which Obama has assured us Iran under
his deal is not developing).
and his team also neglected to mention that $1.3 billion of his administration's
cash bonanza for Tehran had come from the pockets of American taxpayers, via an
obscure channel at Treasury called the Judgment Fund. It took months before such specifics
came to light, which they did thanks not to the administration, but to the
efforts of the press, and a number of persistent questioners in Congress -- to
whom the administration sent tardy and evasive replies.
continue to swirl around this cash-for-Iran arrangement. Was it a ransom for
American prisoners released by Iran on the same day the Obama administration
announced the $1.7 billion settlement? (The Obama administration has repeatedly
asked the public to swallow the logical fallacy that because it is not U.S.
policy to pay ransom, this was not a ransom).
did the administration -- until outed in August and September in a series of
stories by the press -- make a secret of the cash, the conduits and the dates of
delivery? What were -- what are -- the full terms of this confidential
arrangement? Which, according to a Sept.
29 report in The Wall Street Journal, included, as part of a
package of three secret documents signed in Geneva, U.S. backing for the lifting
of UN sanctions on two Iranian state banks blacklisted for financing Iran's
ballistic missile program.
have the relevant texts of all this wheeling and dealing been kept secret? Why
has the administration repeatedly stonewalled questions from Congress? What were
the machinations behind Obama's
claim, after The Wall Street Journal on August 3 broke the story
of the first tranche of $400 million in cash for Iran, that the U.S. government
had no choice but to pay Iran with a mountain of hard-currency banknotes? Based
on what internal calculus did the administration refuse to provide public
confirmation for another few weeks -- until after the news broke in the press --
that the additional $1.3 billion in taxpayers funds had also been paid in cash?
On the basis of what information, precisely, did Attorney
General Loretta Lynch certify that Treasury paying out those tax
dollars to Iran was in the interest of the United States?
government of terror-sponsoring Iran knows the answers to many of these
questions. The American public does not. But we can reasonably speculate that as
this cash-for-Iran saga unfolded, it left a trail of records within the Obama
administration. Classified, quite likely -- but surely there are some
illuminating documents that someone with the proper clearances might wish to
upon a time, we would have called this a paper trail; these days it would more
likely be digital. But at the very least, there ought to be the secret texts,
the related justifications, requisitions and all the to-and-fro that would
presumably be involved in the State Department, the Pentagon and Treasury (at
the behest of the Justice Department, on behalf of State, with the blessing of
President Obama), secretly organizing cash shipments totaling $1.7 billion for
Iran -- and then, for months, despite persistent questions from Congress and the
press, covering it up. Add to that the overlap -- or was it, as appears more
likely, the coordination? -- of all that clandestinely conveyed cash with the
return of American hostages. Then amplify this scene dramatically, to include
the manufacturing of the mothership Iran nuclear deal itself, and the related
handling of sanctions (which, as the 2014-2015 Iran talks stretched out from the
initially planned six months to 17, appeared, despite administration protests to
the contrary, to be ever
more casually enforced).
brings us back to America's presidential election a mere three days ago, in
which it sure looks like Obama and his team were blind-sided by Trump's defeat
of Hillary Clinton. Misled by their own narratives, by their echo chamber in the
press, by erroneous polls, by the same arrogance that begat the presidential
rule of pen-and-phone and Ben-Rhodes-narratives, Obama and his team were
expecting a handover to Hillary. She might not agree with them on everything,
but as a former insider herself, as a candidate who was running to continue
Obama's trajectory and cement his legacies, she wasn't someone whose access to
the Iran file was likely to cause anyone currently in the White House to lose
sleep (provided she'd really ditched her non-secure home-server proclivities).
then Hillary lost.
here comes Trump. It's a good bet that until Tuesday night, the Obama White
House never expected any such imminent intrusion by the Trump team into its
closets. Trump has called the Iran nuclear deal "disastrous," and has
said, variously, that he'll dismantle the Iran nuclear deal, or renegotiate it.
On Thursday, one of Trump's foreign policy advisers, Walid Phares, told CNN that
Trump will demand
changes in the deal.
Trump does with the Iran deal, once he takes office he's entitled to have access
to what's actually in it -- preserved in full, including any secret documents,
understandings, promises or related bargains. This should include information
that holds the answers to a great many lingering questions, among them the full
rationale and terms of Obama's prolific concessions to Iran -- not least, the
$1.7 billion cash payola to the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism.
with such access, assuming the records are in good-faith preserved and turned
over in full, disentangling the truth from the Obama narrative could be
complicated. Andy McCarthy, on PJMedia, warns
the Trump transition team against trusting Obama's politicized
intelligence on ISIS and al-Qaeda. It would be folly to rule out similar bias on
if Obama has any desire to see his signature Iran deal sustained, presumably he,
or his team, will have to divulge to his successor whatever his end of this
bargain actually and fully entails, beneath the narrative and behind the
official gloss. Otherwise, with no particular help from Trump, the deal may
implode anyway. For Obama, during this transition period, it is, one might
suppose, an unexpected and not entirely comfortable choice.