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    Obama Administration Secretly Granted Iran License to Access US Banks - Report

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    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - The Obama administration secretly allowed Iran to access the US financial system despite sanctions and repeated promises to the Congress and the US public that it would do no such thing, the US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations said in a new report on Wednesday.

    The 53-page report said the US Treasury Department issued the license in February 2016, after the conclusion of the 2015 international nuclear deal with Iran, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)

    "The Obama administration misled the American people and Congress because they were desperate to get a deal with Iran," the subcommittee's Chairman Rob Portman said in a press release announcing the report's release. "Despite claims both before and after the Iran deal was completed that the US financial system would remain off limits, the Obama administration issued a specific license allowing Iran to convert billions of dollars in assets using the US financial system," the report stated.

    Though the nuclear deal kept certain sanctions in place, the license allowed Iran to access previously frozen assets totaling $5.7 billion in an Omani bank. The license authorized Iran to convert its once-frozen Omani rials into dollars and then euros. The report explained that without the license, the Omani bank would have violated existing sanctions that prohibit Iran from engaging in transactions using the US financial system.

    The Obama administration asked two US banks to facilitate the conversion of the Iranian assets, but its effort was ultimately unsuccessful as the banks refused to take such action citing reputational damage in dealing with Iran and potential wrongdoing of violating existing US sanctions.

    Meanwhile, the departments of State and Treasury publicly denied that the Obama administration was considering allowing Iran access to the US financial system, while Treasury Secretary Jack Lew testified in Congress that the Obama administration would continue to deny Iran access to the world's largest financial and commercial market, according to the report.

    READ MORE: 'EU's Stance Will Be Decisive': How Iran Sanctions Affect German Banks

    Portman noted in the release the only reason the transaction was not executed was that two US banks refused, even though the Obama administration asked them to help convert the money.

    "Sanctions are a vital foreign policy tool, and the US government should never work to actively undermine their enforcement or effectiveness," Portman said.

    The report outlines key transparency recommendations to ensure such secret side deals do not occur, including requiring the current Trump administration to keep Congress informed on the status of any future negotiations with Iran and disclosing to Congress any specific licenses that are proposed.

    Related:

    American Companies Prepare to Exit Iranian Market Due to US Sanctions - Reports
    'EU's Stance Will Be Decisive': How Iran Sanctions Affect German Banks
    Tags:
    sanctions, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Barack Obama, United States
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