Since the implementation of the international nuclear deal with Iran in January, the regime has stepped up its harassment of U.S. Navy ships in the Persian Gulf.
According to defense officials, the Navy has encountered at least 31 interactions with Iranian navy vessels it considers “unsafe,” “unprofessional,” or both. Overall there were more than 300 interactions between the U.S. and Iranian forces in 2015, but the ‘unsafe//unprofessional’ count has more than doubled this year.
Just last week several Iranian fast attack boats approached the USS Firebolt patrolling international waters in the Persian Gulf. One of the Iranian boats stopped directly in the path and within 100 yards of the USS Firebolt causing the larger vessel to swerve in order to avoid a collision.
One might think this behavior surprising as it comes on the heels of news the Obama administration has secretly authorized payments to Iran which could be as much as $33.6 billion dollars. Wouldn’t the Iranians attempt to play nice in the wake of these massive payments?
Between January 2014 and July 2015, during the time the Obama administration was negotiating the final details of the nuclear accord, Iran was paid $700 million every month from funds that had previously been frozen by sanctions. To date, $11.9 billion in payments have been confirmed, but the administration officials have not been forthcoming about the details surrounding these payments. Suspicion looms regarding rumored payments of a remaining $20 million. Details remain unclear and it appears administration officials will be called before congress in the coming weeks to explain.
News of the monthly $700 million payments broke last week. Lawmakers and other officials are now demanding to know how these payments were made. This all comes as more details emerge regarding the $1.7 billion cash payment recently made as part of a hostage exchange*.
As the administration adamantly claims that wire transfer payment for the $1.7 billion payment was impossible due to the ongoing difficulty by Iran to access international funds, we are left to wonder how the $700 million monthly payments were made. Proponents of the Iran deal are quick to point out that the settlement provided for in the accord is an “unfreezing of assets.” So if “unfrozen” assets can be accessed via the banking channels, why the need for cash payments?
Though few point out that a payment of any kind should have been contested or delayed as Iran was deemed “financially responsible for the 1983 bombing that killed 241 Marines in their barracks in the Lebanese capital, Beruit.” The U.S. Supreme Court has recently paved the way for victims of attacks to be awarded a financial judgement. But earlier this year, a lower court overturned the distribution of those assets to the families of those killed.
After learning of the secret payments, Republican lawmakers have introduced legislation that would bar payments from the Judgment Fund to Iran until Tehran pays the nearly $55.6 billion that U.S. courts have judged it owes to American victims of Iranian terrorism. Iranian president Hassan Rouhani has called the initial ruling “blatant robbery.”
Setting aside criticism of the nuclear accord as a whole, the implementation of the agreement seems questionable at best and leaves the American tax-payers in the dark. Why would we agree to paying out 12 separate $700 million payments before the deal was finalized? If the assets in question are Iran’s, and we are ‘unfreezing’ them, why are we calling them payments? Where is this money coming from? Why would we incur the cost of transporting $1.7 billion dollars in piles of crates across the globe? Why was it first reported to be only $400 million?
It would seem as though we didn’t have a negotiator at the table at all and simply conceded to all of Iran’s demands. And we continue to accommodate a regime who openly mocks us and continues to threaten our presence in international waters and air space. Who would have thought that America, for all her might, would appear to be the puppet, with Iran, back from the brink of financial catastrophe, her puppet master?
*The $1.7 billion figure is comprised of a $400 million payment Iran had made to the U.S. in exchange for military equipment the U.S. did not deliver with the overthrow of the Shah and the taking of U.S. hostages. The remaining $1.3 billion represents the interest payment negotiated by the State Department (which seems generous considering an interest rate of 6% yields almost $558 million—not $1.3 billion).