Obama Admin Unsure If Iran Spent $3 Billion in New Cash on Terrorism

Obama officials ‘on road’ to help banks give Iran money back

John Kerry / AP
April 19, 2016

Obama administration officials disclosed Tuesday that Iran has been granted access to about $3 billion in unfrozen assets in the months since the nuclear agreement was implemented, but it remains unclear to the administration if the Islamic Republic has spent any of this money to fund its global terrorism enterprise, according to top officials.

In the four months since Iran and world powers began to implement the comprehensive nuclear agreement, Iran has been able to recover around $3 billion in funds that were unfrozen as part of the deal. Iran is expected to be given access to another $50 billion to 55 billion in the coming months.

However, the Obama administration was not able to say if Iran has spent any of this money to fund terrorism campaigns.

"We don't know" if Iran has spent this money on terror activities, State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters. "We don't know. We don't have a way."

The administration can only provide estimates of how much money Iran has accessed as part of the deal, Kirby said.

"The $3 billion is an estimate at best—we don't have perfect knowledge of what has actually been freed up for them, and we don't have perfect knowledge of how every dollar of that is going to be spent," he said. "And we stand by what the secretary [of state] said, that it's entirely possible that they can use some of this funding to support terrorist networks."

Still, the administration has sent officials to advise foreign governments and banks on ways they can legally give Iran access to the remaining billions of dollars held in a number of accounts.

"We continue to work with and consult with banking and business institutions here at home and overseas to explain to them how this sanctions relief process is supposed to work," Kirby said. "We actually have officials that are, you know, on the road, actually, making, you know, trying to inform and educate people around the world on how this is supposed to work."

As part of this effort, the Obama administration recently petitioned state governments to drop any and all sanctions they might still have on Iran. This would ease the ability of American firms to resume business ties with Tehran.

In the coming months, the U.S. and foreign governments will help Iran access another $50 billion to $55 billion in assets.

"We still believe that our estimate is accurate, of about 55, somewhere between 50 and 55 billion is about what they will have available to them through this sanctions relief, through the sanctions relief," Kirby said, downplaying estimates by some outside experts who have predicted Iran will be granted closer to $150 billion.

"All I can tell you is that after four months, that's our best estimate, and nobody expected, and nobody should've expected, that it was going to be like sort of a day one, it was just all going to happen," Kirby said, speaking to the ease of granting Iran sanctions relief. "These are their funds. And under the deal, as long as they continue implementing their obligations, and they have, they are entitled to get that money back."

Published under: Iran , Terrorism