The Obama administration is now advising foreign banks on how to bypass existing U.S. sanctions when dealing with Iran, according to the State Department, which disclosed that officials are offering guidance on how to grant the Islamic Republic access to billions of dollars in frozen assets.
However, the administration would not comment when pressed by reporters on whether foreign banks would be permitted to conduct monetary transactions with Iran using American dollars.
State Department Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner told reporters that the U.S. is committed to helping Iran access billions of dollars in frozen assets that are currently stored in banks across the globe. Some financial institutions have been hesitant to deal with Iran following the comprehensive nuclear agreement out of fear that such transactions might violate U.S. sanctions barring transaction with the Islamic Republic.
"It is incumbent on us to live up to our end of this deal," Toner said, referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. "Part of that is to, you know, is to advise these banks and governments."
Toner explained that foreign banks "don't want to violate existing U.S. sanctions" and that the administration is mandated by the nuclear agreement to inform banks about "the extent of U.S. sanctions relief." He was unsure of whether the administration was "proactively" advising banks or only responding to their inquiries.
Toner appeared to agree with a reporter's assessment that the Obama administration is essentially helping foreign governments "avoid U.S. sanctions." However, he later said that the administration is not promoting loopholes in the U.S. sanction regime against Iran.
While the administration has promised not to grant Iran direct access to the U.S. financial system, officials have remained mum on reports that it will grant Iran indirect access to U.S. dollars via foreign banks.
In anticipation of the administration’s alleged plans to grant Iran expanded sanctions relief, Republican Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Mark Kirk (Ill.) filed legislation Wednesday that would prevent the Treasury Department from permitting foreign banks to use U.S. dollars when conducting transactions with Iran.
Toner declined to comment on the legislation and skirted further questions about the issue.
Access to the U.S. dollar is "not what’s under consideration [by the administration] at all," Toner said, echoing statements by other top administration officials in recent days.