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memri
September 23, 2016 No.
1268

In Contrast To Rohani Allegations In UNGA, Senior Iranian Officials Confirm U.S. Has Met Its Obligations Under JCPOA

Introduction

In his September 22, 2016 speech at the UN General Assembly, Iranian President Hassan Rohani accused that the U.S. is not meeting its obligations towards Iran under the JCPOA. He said: "The lack of compliance with the deal on the part of the United States in the past several months represents a flawed approach that should be rectified forthwith... Any failure on the part of the United States in implementing it (the deal) would constitute an international wrongful act and would be objected to by the international community."[1]   


Rohani at the UNGA (Image: Farsnews.com, September 22, 2016)

Rohani's statements, which are part of an Iranian attempt in recent weeks to create a false impression that the U.S. has not met its obligations towards Iran, are in stark contradiction to statements made by senior members of the Iranian negotiation team who explicitly admitted that the U.S. has in fact met its obligations under the JCPOA (see below).

This Iranian measure is a response to the refusal of Western banks to conduct transactions with Iran in dollars, despite the lifting of the nuclear sanctions in January 2016, because the initial sanctions imposed on Iran by Congress for human rights violations and for terrorism are still in force. As will be recalled, Iran refuses to negotiate with the West on issues of terrorism, on the grounds that these issues are internal sovereign matters.

Below is a MEMRI report on this issue published on August 15, 2016.

As the first year of the JCPOA is marked, and in light of Western banks' rejection of Iranian transactions in dollars, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his supporters in the West have launched a campaign to pressure the U.S. to lift the initial sanctions imposed on Iran by Congress for human rights violations and for terrorism. Their aim is to have these sanctions lifted without negotiations and without giving anything in return.

As will be recalled, Iran from the outset restricted the framework of the negotiations to the nuclear issue, and refused to allow them to include other issues such as human rights, terrorism, or missiles, which it considers internal sovereign matters. Therefore, the initial American sanctions concerning these areas remain in force.

A demand for lifting of all the sanctions, including the initial ones, was made by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in the months after the JCPOA was achieved in July 2015.[2] Perhaps Tehran thought that with the lifting of the nuclear sanctions, the entire sanctions regime would collapse, including those concerning human rights, terrorism, and missiles. But this did not happen. The U.S. Treasury Department is following the letter and the spirit of U.S. law, and is warning banks worldwide that the initial sanctions remain in force.[3]

In light of this situation, Iran and the supporters of its regime in the West are now working to create a false impression that the U.S. has not met its obligations towards Iran. They claim that, in order to fulfill its commitments towards Iran in the JCPOA, the U.S. is obligated to revoke or circumvent the initial sanctions imposed on Iran by Congress, which currently prevent banks from dealing freely with Iran.  For example, Tyler Cullis, member of the Iranian lobby in the U.S., the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), stated in a recent policy paper that "the United States is committed to ensuring that neither U.S. law nor policy is standing in the way of non-U.S. banks resuming correspondent banking relations with their Iranian counterparts... If U.S. laws or policies are interfering with Iran realizing the full benefit of the lifting of sanctions on Iran's financial institutions, then the U.S. is required to take steps to ensure that those laws or policies no longer are running such interference. To do so could require additional changes to U.S. laws or policies governing the issue."[4]

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister and negotiating team member Majid Takhtravanchi also demanded that the U.S. take explicit steps to remove any obstacles currently preventing banks from dealing with Iran. He said on June 27, 2016,: "Two [contradictory] messages are coming out of Washington: The State Department says that there is no problem carrying out banking and financial transactions with Iran, while the OFAC says the opposite... We want the OFAC... to guarantee that there is no problem for the banks that are cooperating with Iran..."[5]

It should be mentioned that the Iranian implication that the U.S. has not met its obligations towards Iran stands in contradiction to explicit statements made recently by Iranian officials, mainly negotiation team members from Iran's pragmatic camp, who confirmed that the U.S. had upheld its part of the JCPOA. Deputy Foreign Minister and senior negotiating team member 'Abbas Araghchi said on a television special marking the first anniversary of the JCPOA: "Both sides have met their obligations under the JCPOA... In order to benefit from the JCPOA... we must carry out several steps because there are restrictions that are not connected to the JCPOA... The other side has implemented its obligations, and if it had not, that would have been a violation of the JCPOA, and we would have handled it in the Joint Commission...

"The JCPOA was meant to remove the obstacles of the sanctions from Iran's economic path. [Indeed], these obstacles have been removed, but there are other obstacles, such as the initial sanctions by America, FATF [Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering], and laws connected to money-laundering, which require time [to take care of].

"From the outset, [the other side] was not meant to lift the sanctions that are not connected to the nuclear issue; that is written even in the [2013] Geneva Joint Plan of Action [about the lifting of] 'sanctions related to the nuclear [issue], because we were negotiating about the nuclear issue [alone]...

"The sanctions on the dollar and the use of the financial apparatus of America belong to the initial sanctions imposed long ago because of issues that are not nuclear-related... We raised the matter in the negotiations, but the Americans did not agree to lift these sanctions... and demanded additional concessions [from us] in matters that were part of our red lines...

"The Americans are serious about maintaining their initial sanctions; this is the essence of America. Iran is Iran and America is America, and as long as we do not negotiate on bilateral relations [with the U.S.], these sanctions will remain in force. The American Treasury Department tells [the banks worldwide] that these sanctions are in force, and has warned them not to get in trouble because of them. These sanctions are not related to the JCPOA."[6]

Deputy Foreign Minister and negotiating team member Hamid Ba'idinejad said at a press conference marking the first anniversary of the JCPOA: "Up to this very moment, the members of the [Iranian] negotiating team believe that the JCPOA has not been violated [by the U.S.], and still believe that it is possible to solve the problems [concerning transactions in dollars] with discussions, recommendations, and talks... From the outset, the task set out [for the Iranian negotiating team] was to resolve the nuclear issue [alone]. So far, the Islamic Republic has made no decision to negotiate with America on [the other] issues in dispute...

"Our regime never expected us to achieve the lifting of the sanctions for human rights [in the framework] of the nuclear talks."[7]

Expediency Council head Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said: "America is telling [the banks worldwide] that it has not lifted the [initial] sanctions because this problem is related to human rights, terrorism, Palestine, and Lebanon. These [issues] too we could have solved."[8]

However, after Khamenei warned, on August 1, 2016, that the U.S. had violated its commitments, the negotiating team heads fell into line with him, and began to state that the U.S. had indeed violated its obligations and to demand further changes in U.S. policies and laws.

A U.S. capitulation to these Iranian demands would be a blow to the authority of Congress, which imposed the initial sanctions, and to the separation of powers in the U.S. Moreover, it would constitute U.S. support for Iran's ideological camp - Khamenei, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the Basij, and the ayatollahs connected to them - and not to the pragmatic camp, and would also stand in contradiction to President Obama's commitment that the JCPOA deals only with the nuclear issue.

 

* Y. Carmon is President of MEMRI; A. Savyon is the director of MEMRI's Iran Media Project

 

Endnotes:

 

[1] Farsnews.com, September 22, 2016.

[4] Niacouncil.org, August 2016.

[5] Tabnak (Iran), July 27, 2016.

[6] Fars (Iran), July 11, 2016.

[7] Fars (Iran), July 13, 2016.

[8] Fars (Iran), August 10, 2016.