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Saturday, April 18, 2015

A $50 billion signing bonus for Iran

The cartoon above is from 2008 and is actually more optimistic than what's going on today. For today, it is clear, that President Hussein Obama is perfectly happy to have Iran become nuclear armed, at least so long as it doesn't happen on his watch.

Shavua tov, a good week to everyone.

In an email, Omri Ceren reports that President Hussein Obama is offering Iran a $50 billion cash infusion to sign a nuclear agreement with the P 5+1. That would increase Iranian GDP by 10% immediately. And that's only the beginning.
This Wall Street Journal article by Carol Lee and Jay Solomon went live yesterday just as everyone was going home, but it's everywhere this morning so I wanted to pass it along. Pasted at the bottom. It reports out the President’s comments from yesterday, which you would have gotten from me along with video, in which he moved to placate Khamenei's new demand for immediate sanctions relief upon signing a deal.

The White House is trying to spin the new concession, which contradicts the factsheet they distributed the evening of the Lausanne announcement, in two ways.

1st -- they're telling journalists that the new concession doesn’t matter because the snapback mechanism is more important than the sequencing of sanctions relief. That's a difficult position to defend politically, because it's obvious the White House caved again, and even more difficult to defend substantively, because snapback only works in theory if the Iranian economy is sufficiently fragile for pressure to matter - and immediate relief would stabilize that economy. Beyond the optics and the theory, very few people believe the administration's Rube Goldberg mechanism for restoring sanctions would even work (FDD's Mark Dubowitz has been saying so for months and David Rothkopf was brutal on the question last week). It's just not a great position to defend.

But this is what the administration has left, so this is what they're going with. You'll see more of it – ‘snapback more important than sanctions’ - over the weekend and into Monday as White House officials do damage control.

2nd -- they're trying to borderline-gaslight journalists by insisting that there was no new concession, that the President didn't signal any new flexibility, and that sanctions relief will still be phased out. That line is falling a bit flat - Obama said what he said - but now the question is how they intend to square the circle. How do they make sanctions relief phased in principle, so they can keep saying they didn't cave, but instantaneous in practice, so that the Iranians will take the concession? On that point there's a suggestive little scooplet buried in the WSJ article:

The Obama administration estimates Iran has between $100 billion and $140 billion of its oil revenue frozen in offshore accounts as a result of sanctions. U.S. officials said they expect Tehran to gain access to these funds in phases as part of a final deal. Iran could receive somewhere between $30 billion and $50 billion upon signing the agreement, said congressional officials briefed by the administration. Complicating negotiations, U.S.-ally Saudi Arabia has repeatedly charged in recent weeks that Iran has provided significant funding, arms and training to Shiite insurgents in Yemen who gained control of the country’s capital, San’a, and forced the country’s president to flee. Iran has denied these allegations. Iran also is a major supporter of the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, the Assad regime in Syria and a group of Shiite militias fighting in Iraq.

An immediate and irreversible infusion of $50 billion would boost Iran's GDP by more than 10% overnight and signal the end of meaningful financial pressure. But it would also allow the White House to continue insisting that sanctions relief was being phased out in principle: all the sanctions that matter would get removed immediately, but there would still be a few sanctions left as a legal matter.

The trick could still prove politically toxic on the Hill. It would provide the Iranians with an infusion of $50 billion for their terror infrastructure and their march across the Middle East, which would panic our Arab allies. who are at war with Iran because of those campaigns. It’s also $50 billion to a regime that is dedicated to America's destruction and that killed over a thousand American soldiers. That spins itself.
Here's the clip of President Obama refusing to rule out immediate and complete sanctions relief to Iran upon signing an agreement. Let's go to the videotape.

So far no reaction to this from Democrats on Capitol Hill. What could go wrong? More from Powerline here.

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