The Obama administration is committed to providing Iran with access to the U.S. dollar and American financial markets, and such access can come within days, a move that is meeting bipartisan opposition in Congress. U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday, are arguing that “the White House has backtracked on commitments made to Congress last summer to maintain financial pressure on Tehran.” Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said in a press release Thursday that he would only be willing to consider giving Iran access to the U.S. financial system once it no longer finances terror or menaces Israel and other U.S. allies. Hoyer also stated, “I do not support granting Iran any new relief without a corresponding concession. We lose leverage otherwise, and Iran receives something for free.” Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) said of allowing Iran access to U.S. dollars: “I believe this will set bad precedent, and it will not be the last time the Iranians and/or their business partners receive additional relief not contemplated” under the nuclear deal reached in July. Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) wrote in The Wall Street Journal on Thursday, “The IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] is a business empire…It represents around one-sixth of the country’s gross domestic product, controls hundreds of companies and dominates vast sectors of the economy…It’s impossible to do business in Iran without dealing with the IRGC.” The move to allow Iran to tap into the U.S. financial market comes after the Iranian regime has complained about U.S. sanctions.
The administration has reversed its previous position that Iran would never be given access to the U.S. financial system. Adam Szubin, the Treasury Department’s point man on sanctions, said in a congressional hearing in September that “no Iranian banks can access the US financial system; not to open an account, not to purchase a security, and not even to execute a dollarized transaction where a split second's worth of business is done in a New York clearing bank.” Sanctions expert Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) called the move “a bait and switch which ignores a long-standing administration commitment not to greenlight Iran's access to the greenback.” Rep. Sherman stated, “[S]uch relief runs counter to testimony to Congress by U.S. officials.”
Experts have cautioned that such a move jeopardizes the U.S. sanctions regime in place against Iran. Dubowitz warned, "If they [the administration] permit this, it is the end of U.S. sanctions on Iran.” He explained that Iran has a record of engaging in illicit financial activities. Because of this, the U.S. Treasury in 2008 banned U.S. “institutions from processing ‘U-turns’ – temporary dollar transactions between non-U.S. banks and Iranian banks.” In 2011, in the US Patriot Act, the Treasury Department found that “Iran’s entire financial sector is a jurisdiction of primary money laundering concern.” The Financial Action Task Force, a global anti-terrorism financing body, also warned that Iran's "failure to address the risk of terrorist financing" poses a "serious threat... to the integrity of the international financial system." Dubowitz, along with Annie Fixler, a policy analyst at FDD, concluded: "[T]he next president’s ability to target Iran's malign activities with non-nuclear sanctions will be much more difficult if billions of dollarized transactions are green lighted. The next administration won’t easily be able to reverse this once it is in motion.”
The legal watchdog group Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center has warned the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF) that its support of groups that advocate boycotting Israel could cause the fund to be “considered complicit and as a participant in these groups’ illegal activities.”The letter laid out RBF’s questionable funding:
The BDS [Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions] movement’s efforts constitute unlawful discrimination on the basis of national origin, race, and religion under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (“Anti-Racism Convention”) and numerous U.S. federal and state statutes, including New York law. Funding organizations that promote BDS raises serious legal issues for RBF. Accordingly, we strongly advise you to consider whether RBF should continue to provide financial backing to these hate groups who promote BDS against Israel and Israeli companies, individuals, and products.The Shurat Hadin letter pointed out that despite the human rights abuses taking place all over the Middle East, particularly in Syria and the Gaza Strip, the BDS movement only targets Israel. Such funding is not only “reprehensible,” the letter said, but may also constitute an unlawful form of discrimination. For example, the United States Codeprohibits discrimination in places of “public accommodation” on “the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.” Many states have passed laws barring state governments from contracting with any business or individual that boycotts or supports a boycott of Israel.
The BDS movement is inherently racist, anti-Semitic, biased and prejudicial and has an extremist agenda that unfairly singles out Israel and Jews. The BDS movement’s true goal is the destruction of the State of Israel and its Jewish community. It masquerades as a human rights movement, but it is singularly fixated on Israel and Jews and ignores egregious human rights abuses everywhere else in the world since they do not feed its anti-Israel agenda.
The letter to RBF comes in the wake of a number of media reports tying the foundation to anti-Israel activist organizations. RBF’s funding of groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace, the American Friends Service Committee, and Zochrot were first revealed in The Tower in February by Yona Shifmiller of the watchdog organization NGO Monitor. An op-ed in the New York Daily News last week documented the troubling advocacy of the groups RBF funds:
In 2015, RBF granted $140,000 to Jewish Voice for Peace. JVP supports BDS “as part of our work for freedom, justice and equality for all people,” and praises Palestinians “rising up en-masse against Israel’s brutal, decades-old regime of occupation, settler colonialism and apartheid.” How is contributing to JVP advancing a just and durable peace?Bloomberg News reported last year that RBF spent millions of dollars bringing together “a loose coalition of peace groups, think tanks, and former high-ranking U.S. diplomats” in support of the nuclear deal with Iran. (via TheTower.org)
RBF gave $50,000 in 2015 to the American Friends Service Committee’s Israel program, which advocates for the Palestinian “right of return,” promotes BDS initiatives at universities and holds the BDS Summer Institute “focused on building skills for divestment campaigns.”
Zochrot, a pro-Palestinian organization that regards the creation of Israel as a “catastrophe,” received $20,000 in 2015 from RBF. Zochrot supports “de-Zionizing Palestine,” eliminating the Jewish state via implementation of the right of return.