Thursday, October 20, 2016

Obama Admin Refuses to Give Congress Info on Updated Treasury Guidelines That Eased Iran Sanctions

The Obama administration is refusing to give Congress information about updated Treasury Department guidelines issued earlier this month that allow greater Iranian access to the US dollar, The Weekly Standard reported on Wednesday.
The guidelines include a provision that lifts a ban on foreign transactions with Iranian companies controlled by sanctioned individuals or groups.
According to The Weekly Standard report, the Obama administration has responded to congressional inquiries about the matter with “blanket declarations that the guidelines contain nothing new.”
A Treasury Department letter sent to Senate Banking Committee chairman Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) — which was seen by The Weekly Standard — accused critics of having “mischaracterized” the guidelines. However, the report noted, the letter “did not address a range of specifics about the updates.”
“If [the letter’s] intent was to clarify and guide, it appears to have failed,” The Weekly Standard quoted Senator Shelby’s office as saying.
A source familiar with the issue was quoted as telling The Weekly Standard that “all the administration will do is keep repeating that there’s nothing new here. Meanwhile the Iranians have begun crowing that banks have to give them dollars and do business with them specifically because of the new Treasury language.”
As reported by The Algemeiner, a recent American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) memo said the Treasury Department’s move “opened the door to business with Iran’s leading terrorist group — the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).”
Furthermore, the AIPAC memo stated, the new guidelines were part of a “pattern of undeserved concessions to Tehran as it simultaneously escalates its terrorist activities, ballistic missile tests, and human rights violations.”
“Any long-term success of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) depends on Iran understanding that any violation will lead to swift, certain response,” AIPAC said. “Undeserved concessions going beyond the JCPOA only reinforce Tehran’s propensity to violate its international obligations and ultimately undermine the JCPOA itself.”
“Congress and the president must take corrective steps now and in January to stop undeserved concessions to Iran and hold Tehran accountable,” the memo emphasized.

Obama Admin Leaves Congress in Dark About Quiet Changes to Iran Sanctions Guidelines

 OCT 19, 2016 | By JENNA LIFHITS

The Obama administration won't provide Congress with a range of details about a recent announcement that cleared the way for doing business with Iran, including Iranian firms controlled by sanctioned military and terrorist groups, according to congressional sources and experts who spoke to THE WEEKLY STANDARD.
The new guidelines, which were issued by the Treasury Department on the Friday before Columbus Day, told foreign banks they could work with Iran in U.S. dollars, allowed foreign firms to do business with companies "controlled in whole or in part" by sanctioned Iranian entities, and loosened the responsibility of banks to avoid funding illegal transactions.
The timing of the announcement prompted criticism that the administration was trying to bury new concessions in response to renewed Iranian demands for more relief as part of last summer's nuclear deal. The U.S. had long warned against any business with companies controlled by sanctioned Iranian groups, and the Obama administration had broadly promised Congress last summer to maintain economic pressure on Iran.
Inquiries and criticism of the administration from Congress have been met with blanket declarations that the guidelines contain nothing new, according to multiple sources.
In a letter from the Treasury Department sent to Senate Banking Committee chairman Richard Shelby and obtained by TWS, the administration accused critics of having "mischaracterized" its efforts but did not address a range of specifics about the updates.
"If [the letter's] intent was to clarify and guide, it appears to have failed," Shelby's office told TWS.
The letter focused on two measures in particular, pertaining to offshore dollar transactions and foreign business with sanctioned entities, that it said did not diverge from previous practices or U.S. law.
"This guidance is fully consistent with the legislation Congress passed beginning in 2010 to impose secondary sanctions, and reflects the legal standard in place since long before these FAQ updates," the letter read, in reference to the latter measure.
A source who works closely with Congress on Iran sanctions issues disagreed with that assessment, noting that the U.S. government has had a longstanding precedent of "prohibiting work with sanctioned entities."