Two leading U.S. senators are calling on the Obama administration to release secret letters to foreign governments assuring them that they will not be legally penalized for doing business with the Iranian government, according to a copy of a letter sent Wednesday to the State Department and obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
Sens. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) and Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) disclosed in the letter to the State Department that U.S. lawmakers have been shown copies of several letters sent by the Obama administration to the Chinese, German, French, and British governments assuring them that companies doing business with Iran will not come under penalty.
The Obama administration is purportedly promising the foreign governments that if Iran violates the parameters of a recently inked nuclear accord, European companies will not be penalized, according to the secret letters.
Congress became aware of these promises during closed-door briefings with the Obama administration and through documents filed by the administration under a law requiring full disclosure of all information pertaining to the accord.
The issue of sanctions on Iran has become a major issue on Capitol Hill in the weeks since the Obama administration agreed to a deal that permits Iran to enter the international community in exchange for temporarily constraining its nuclear program.
Iran will receive more than $150 billion in sanctions relief as part of the deal and many of its military branches will be removed from international sanctions designations.
"The documents submitted by the Administration to Congress include non-public letters that you sent to the French, British, German, and Chinese governments on the consequences of sanctions snap-back," Kirk and Rubio wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry.
"These letters appear to reassure these foreign governments that their companies may not be impacted if sanctions are re-imposed in response to Iranian violations of the agreement," they claim. "While Administration officials have claimed that this is not the case, we think it is important for the American public to be able to read your assurances to foreign governments for themselves as their elected representatives review this deal in the coming weeks."
Kirk and Rubio are demanding that the Obama administration release these letters to the public so that the full nature of the White House’s backroom dealings are made known.
"We therefore request the Administration to publicly release these letters, which are not classified, so that the full extent of the Administration’s non-public assurances to European and Chinese governments can be discussed openly by Congress and analyzed by impartial outside experts," they write.
"Given the conflicting interpretations hinted at by the deal’s various stakeholders, it would also ease congressional review of the deal if you were to receive assurances from the other members of the P5+1 about the guidance they will provide to companies about the inherent risks of investing in Iran due to Iran’s ongoing support for terrorism and use of its financial system for illicit activities and the potential for sanctions to snap back if Iran violates the nuclear agreement," the letter states.
As Iranian companies and government entities are removed from sanctions lists, they will be permitted to do business on the open market. A number of governments, including the Russia and Italy, have already expressed interest in partnering with Iran.
U.S. lawmakers remain concerned that if Iran violates the nuclear accord, sanctions will not be reimposed in a meaningful way.
"The conditions under which foreign investment in Iran would proceed under the nuclear agreement remain unclear," Kirk and Rubio wrote. "On July 23, 2015, Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that companies that have invested in Iran would ‘not be able to continue doing things that are in violation of the sanctions’ if sanctions snap back."
"Foreign investment in Iran will involve long-term contracts in many cases, however, and some interpretations of the Iran agreement indicate these contracts might be protected from the snap-back of sanctions by a so-called ‘grandfather clause,’" they write.
Under the terms of the agreement, sanctions on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a paramilitary force known to commit acts of terrorism across the globe, will be lifted.
A multi-billion dollars financial empire belonging to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei also will be removed from sanctions lists, according to the parameters of the deal.