May 17, 2016

The Obama Administration's Iran Fictions

  • Iran’s economy is benefitting from access to $100 billion because of sanctions relief from the Obama administration’s nuclear agreement.

  • The White House has misled the public about the $100 billion and has called critics misinformed or liars.

  • The total sanctions relief of the nuclear agreement gives the Iranian economy access to more than $100 billion, some of which will be used against American interests.

The Iran nuclear agreement was announced in July 2015. Since then, the Obama administration has misled the American people about the economic benefits Iran is getting under the deal.

The White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, continued this effort last Thursday. When asked about the amount of sanctions relief Iran received under the agreement, he repeated the fiction that Iran was likely to enjoy “something around $50 billion.” This is a misrepresentation at best, and an outright fabrication at worst.

Josh Earnest lies on Iran

The Congressional Research Service summarized the sanctions relief available to Iran in a report updated two months ago: “Under easing of U.S. and EU sanctions, Iran will be allowed access to roughly $100 billion revenues frozen abroad in a special escrow.”


The acting under secretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence has said Iran’s “total usable assets worldwide is about $50 billion.” This tacitly acknowledges that Iran has other assets worldwide, though they may be tied up in some way that makes them less readily “usable.” He explained: “the majority of the reserves on Iran’s books are already committed, or illiquid. They’re simply not available” because “over $20 billion Iran has obligated as collateral projects with China” and “tens of billions of these reserves consist of nonperforming loans to Iran’s energy and banking sector, funds that are not going to be repaid and are not available to Iran.”

This information does nothing to refute that the Iranian economy is benefitting from access to $100 billion as a function of sanctions relief under the nuclear agreement.

Although some of these funds may not be available for Iran to use elsewhere, Iran’s economy still benefits from access to these assets. The Iranian economy also will benefit from the money Iran has obligated to projects with China. China will provide some goods or services in exchange for that asset commitment, most likely in the form of investments in Iran’s energy sector.


The $100 billion in economic benefit does not take into account the additional income Iran will gain from the lifting of sanctions on the sale and export of crude oil or precious metals. It also does not include President Obama unnecessarily purchasing heavy water from the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, thereby giving Iran an additional $8.6 million in cash.

It is understandable that the Obama administration would try to minimize the assets to which Iran is gaining access. After all, the president’s national security adviser has admitted, “we should expect that some portion of that money would go to the Iranian military and could potentially be used for the kinds of bad behavior that we have seen in the region up until now.” As she noted, “they will have more money” to do that when sanctions are lifted.

In addition to using this money to support terrorism, these economic benefits prop up a regime that is anathema to the United States in almost every way. It is a lifeline to a regime in desperate need of hard currency.

The Obama administration is trying to mislead the American people about how generous the nuclear deal is. Despite the White House press secretary’s best efforts at spin, the Iranian economy is benefitting from access to $100 billion because of sanctions relief from the Iran nuclear agreement.

Issue Tag: National Security