Friday, November 8, 2013

Exclusive: Obama’s Secret Iran Détente

The Daily Beast
November 8, 2013

Long before a nuclear deal was in reach, the U.S. was quietly lifting some of the financial pressure on Iran, a Daily Beast investigation reveals. How the sanctions were softened.


The Obama administration began softening sanctions on Iran after the election of Iran’s new president in June, months before the current round of nuclear talks in Geneva or the historic phone call between the two leaders in September.
US Iran Timeline
Rouzbeh Jadidoleslam/AP
While those negotiations now appear on the verge of a breakthrough the key condition for Iran—relief from crippling sanctions—began quietly and modestly five months ago. 
A review of Treasury Department notices reveals that the U.S. government has all but stopped the financial blacklisting of entities and people that help Iran evade international sanctions since the election of its president, Hassan Rouhani, in June.
On Wednesday Obama said in an interview with NBC News the negotiations in Geneva “are not about easing sanctions.” “The negotiations taking place are about how Iran begins to meet its international obligations and provide assurances not just to us but to the entire world,” the president said.
But it has also long been Obama’s strategy to squeeze Iran’s economy until Iran would be willing to trade relief from sanctions for abandoning key elements of its nuclear program.
One way Obama has pressured Iran is through isolating the country’s banks from the global financial sector, the networks that make modern international commerce possible. This in turn has led Iran to seek out front companies and cutouts to conduct routine international business, such as selling its crude oil.
In this cat and mouse game, the Treasury Department in recent years has routinely designated new entities as violators of sanctions, forcing Iran to adjust in turn. In the six weeks prior to the Iranian elections in June, the Treasury Department issued seven notices of designations of sanctions violators that included more than 100 new people, companies, aircraft, and sea vessels.
Since June 14, however, when Rouhani was elected, the Treasury Department has only issued two designation notices that have identified six people and four companies as violating the Iran sanctions.

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