Who doesn’t like shopping; especially when you’re about to get a $140 billion credit line? The Iran regime’s mullahs are eagerly anticipating the windfall due to them with a completed nuclear agreement. The cornerstone of nuclear talks for the regime has been the condition for the immediate and total lifting of all economic sanctions from the UN Security Council, European Union and U.S.
In fact, there has been no ambiguity about what Iran’s top mullah, Ali Khamenei is seeking in a nuclear deal having posted his very own infographic listing his specific “red lines” where he would not allow regime negotiators to cross in order to gain a deal with the P5+1 group of nations.
The value of those frozen assets has already been demonstrated when the U.S. released over $17 billion in cash to the regime since the interim framework agreement was announced in April of 2015 and follows a prior interim agreement reached in 2013. In fact the regime just received over 13 tons of gold released by South Africa at the direction of the U.S. as part of those agreements. The massive influx of cash came at an opportune time for the regime.
The benchmark price of crude oil had plummeted from a high of $107.89 per barrel in June of 2014 to only $57.30 per barrel in April of 2015, crushing the Iranian economy and its black market sales of illegal crude.
The 47 percent drop in oil came at the same time that the Iran regime had significantly stepped up its support for Houthi rebels as they overthrew the government in Yemen, spent over $6 billion annually to prop up the Assad regime in Syria, and billions more to fund Shiite militias throughout Iraq.
The cash delivered by the U.S. was a godsend for the mullahs and kept their precarious hold over an increasingly embittered Iranian population firm. The mullahs recognize that replenishing their coffers remains the most vital aspect of these negotiations and would normally provide enormous leverage for the P5+1 – particularly the U.S. – but the Obama administration seems to be intent on securing a deal, any deal, without using this economic leverage to gain substantial changes in Iran’s foreign policy direction or abysmal human rights record.
This hasn’t been lost on the mullahs or their circle of supporters who have sought to push forward foreign investment in order to create the feeling of inevitability of a lifting of sanctions. Economists have estimated the regime could receive an additional windfall of over $100 billion in direct foreign investment with the lifting of sanctions in addition to the $140 billion it would get from unfrozen assets.
Already regime supporters such as Reza Marashi of the National Iranian American Council and Bijan Khajehpour of Atieh International are already posturing and trying to facilitate this influx of foreign investment. In Khajehpour’s case, he would personally gain by helping direct investors to regime industries through his consulting firm.
But any thought of this enormous windfall benefitting the Iranian people is foolish and misplaced given past history. Khamenei himself delivered a speech February of 2014 in which he called for an “economy of resistance” and set the stage for preparing the Iranian people for continued hardships. Those hardships have resulted in widespread, but lightly reported, mass protests and demonstrations throughout Iran from everyone ranging from school teachers to factory workers to ethnic minorities.
The fact that regime mullahs directed the massive shifting of funds to fund proxy wars, terror groups and its nuclear program at the expense of its own citizens clearly demonstrates what will happen with this $140 billion payday and is bearing more intense media scrutiny as journalists and columnists delve deeper into where all those billions will most likely go.
As Michael Singh, managing director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, writes in the Wall Street Journal: “The agreement terms reportedly under discussion provide Iran with substantial economic relief while demanding precisely nothing from it regarding its sponsorship of terrorism and destabilizing regional behavior.”
Sounding a similar warning is Ray Takeyh, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, who wrote in the Washington Post: “The massive financial gains from the deal would enable the Islamic Republic’s imperial surge while allowing a repressive regime that was on the brink of collapse in 2009 to consolidate power. This would be no small achievement for Iran’s emboldened rulers.”
As the regime continues to manipulate the U.S. with false promises, the mullahs are busy getting their shopping list ready for the day their bank accounts are flush with cash again.
By Laura Carnahan