The United States must not aid and abet Iranian money laundering
By Ed Royce

April 6, 2016

Iran has yet to see the economic growth it wants from President Obama’s nuclear deal, and it’s demanding additional concessions — above and beyond the agreement — in return for nothing. Specifically, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wants the United States to end sanctions aimed at curbing Iran’s funding for terrorism and illicit weapons so Iran can gain access to the U.S. financial system, where the majority of international business is conducted.

At a news conference Friday, Obama walked back reports that Iran would be allowed direct access to the U.S. dollar, saying, “That’s not actually the approach that we’re taking.” He did not, however, explicitly close the door to other steps that would give the regime access to U.S. dollars through offshore clearinghouses. In other words, Iran would be allowed to launder dollars while the administration looked the other way.

This is an alarming departure from the Obama administration’s position just months ago. Indeed, when selling the nuclear deal to the American people last year, the administration repeatedly stressed to Congress that key terrorism, missile and human rights sanctions against Iran would continue to be vigorously enforced.

Take Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, for example. Last summer, in testimony to Congress, Lew vowed, “Iranian banks will not be able to clear U.S. dollars through New York, hold correspondent account relationships with U.S. financial institutions, or enter into financing arrangements with U.S. banks.” As the secretary made clear, “Iran, in other words, will continue to be denied access to the world’s largest financial and commercial market.”

Yet when I questioned Lew just two weeks ago about whether he stood by this testimony, he refused to give a direct answer. And so this appears to be just the latest in a long pattern of concessions to protect the president’s “legacy” deal. In recent months, the administration gutted a new law to strengthen the visa waiver program to please the Iranians and has imposed only minimal sanctions on Iran’s missile program — even as Iran launches missiles stamped with the words “Israel must be wiped off the face of the earth.”

Iran claims it wants an end to these sanctions, and in turn greater access to the world’s financial systems, to spur economic growth. But countries that want to attract international investment shouldn’t shovel cash to terrorists while accelerating production of the delivery vehicle for a nuclear weapon. Nor should they threaten neighbors with annihilation.

Allowing a belligerent Iran access to the U.S. dollar poses real dangers to our country and economy. In February, the Financial Action Task Force — an organization comprising nearly 40 nations — warned that it is “exceptionally concerned about Iran’s failure to address the risk of terrorist financing and the serious threat this poses” to the world’s financial system. That’s why I’m working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle on legislation to put in place strict statutory prohibitions to keep Iran from receiving the benefits of accessing the U.S. financial system.

Iran has seen what Obama will do to preserve his nuclear deal, and it’s taking full advantage. The United States cannot cave again. Congress should make clear that until the Iranian regime drops its illicit missile program and funding of terrorism, it won’t receive another dime of sanctions relief.

The writer, a Republican from California, is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.