The famous physicist Albert Einstein once said “Too many of us look upon Americans as dollar chasers. This is a cruel libel, even if it is reiterated thoughtlessly by the Americans themselves.”
The sentiment still applies today to the extent that many people around the world assume Americans are infatuated with money and its pursuit and have built into a kind of urban legend and mythology that has come to dominate the perceptions of Americans around the world.
The mullahs in Tehran have used the same verbiage to draw a portrait of America as a nation bereft of morality, filled with infidels more intent on opening McDonalds and Starbucks locations than pursuing a “moral” life.
It is an image the mullahs wish to grow since it allows them to convey a perception of moral and ethical superiority and re-invests the Iranian people in the mythology of the religious theocracy; one founded on a single vision and interpretation of Islam.
It also happens to be a hypocritical view since the mullahs are just as obsessed about the almighty dollar as hedge fund managers and bond traders on Wall Street. That obsessing drives the mullahs as they use all of their PR and lobbying tools to press the Obama administration to lift sanctions restricting Iran’s access to U.S. currency exchanges as part of the nuclear agreement reached last year.
According to news reports, “Iranian and European officials say they are pushing the United States to grant the Islamic Republic unprecedented access to American financial markets and the U.S. dollar, working against promises by top Obama administration officials who had claimed Iran would never be granted such access, according to recent remarks.”
Regime foreign minister Javad Zarif, speaking at a joint press conference this weekend with European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, said that officials are pressuring the U.S. to grant Iran access to American markets.
“Iran and the EU will put pressure on the United States to facilitate the cooperation of non-American banks with Iran,” Zarif was quoted as saying at a briefing with reporters and Mogherini.
Both Iran and the EU said in a joint statement later in the day that the United States must work hard to uphold its obligations under the recent nuclear deal. The White House has argued that it is not mandated to provide dollar access under the agreement.
It is one of the rare occasions where the vagaries of the nuclear agreement, which the Iranian regime fought so hard to secure is now working against it.
In Foreign Policy, Eric Lorber and Peter Feaver pointed out the problems with the imprecise language in the nuclear agreement.
“In order to get a deal that had a chance of constraining Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the United States had to make significant concessions on nuclear-related sanctions. At the time, the Obama administration sold the deal with the assurance that the United States would retain enough coercive leverage on Iran to keep the regime in check on these other issues, including the Islamic Republic’s support for international terrorism, human rights abuses, and the development of its ballistic missile programs. And administration spokespeople emphasized again and again that they would be vigilant and vigorous in wielding this coercive leverage,” they write.
“In the past few weeks, however, the administration has signaled that it is on the cusp of making an additional and unexpected concession to Iran that significantly weakens remaining U.S. leverage: giving Iran backdoor access to financial transactions in dollars. The administration reportedly believes it needs to make this additional concession to honor the spirit of the agreement. Congress is crying foul, asserting that such dollar access was not included in the letter of the original deal and constitutes a gift to Iran that should not be given without additional Iranian concessions. As President Obama himself asked recently: Why should the United States offer additional concessions to honor the spirit of the deal if Iran is not also making additional concessions?” they added.
The inability of the Iranian regime to lift the restrictions on accessing U.S. currency has put a halt to their flood of deal making with European and Asian banks and companies leery of running afoul of U.S. regulators, especially with a pending election that could bring a new administration less favorable of the deal.
Members of Congress have been outraged. Many members on both sides of the aisle felt they had been misled by the administration, and that if the administration had been considering granting Iran access to U.S. dollars, it should been more forthcoming with this plan in the summer of 2015 and afterwards, rather than making statements that indicated that Iran would not have access to the benefits of the U.S. financial system.
All of which points towards the mullahs obsession about money: It is the grease that fuels its proxy wars in Syria, Yemen and Iraq. It arms terrorist groups like Hezbollah. It buys weapons that kill civilians and it helps oppress the Iranian people and lines the pockets of family members of the mullahs and other regime elites.
As the U.S. considers continuing the currency ban, it should remember what the regime will use those dollars for and it is not for buying every Iranian an air conditioner or Playstation.
By Michael Tomlinson