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Is Team Trump Instructing this New Year’s Grinch OFAC to Destroy JCPOA?

A friend who works in an office near AIPAC on Capitol Hill sent this adaptation of Nat King Coles, “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire.” It was reportedly sung at some of this year’s AIPAC and Zionist Lobby holiday receptions for Congressional staffers and lobbyists as well as at other seasonal events in Washington.

It goes and rhymes like this:

Chestnuts roasting on an open flame.

Jack Frost nipping at your shoes.

Iran Sanctions coming back all the same.

As OFAC dresses up its FAQs

He received it as part of a package of hoped for aggressive sanctions including cyber-attacks and enlarging OFAC’s Special Designated Nationals (SDN) List as well as other previously undisclosed recommendations targeting Iran’s leadership and vowing to collapse the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Known commonly as the Iran deal or Iran nuclear deal, preparations are intensifying to destroy the JCPOA and have been in the works since the November 8 US election results were known. Several recommendations were prepared by Israel’s lobby to allies of the incoming Trump administration and delivered to Trumps transition team just days ago.

OFAC is expected to do its part after 1/20/2017 and last July’s removed Iran sanctions may be re-imposed in addition to other new Iran sanctions ideas coming out of some anti-Iran Congressional offices.

Opponents of the Boeing deal at AIPAC and in Congress have recently revived some of the earlier arguments used before last Septembers OFAC approval of a license for Boeing to sell $16 billion worth of aircraft to Iran. Capitol Hill opponents of the Iran nuclear deal are once more pointing out that the Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Iran Air in 2011 for using passenger and cargo planes to transport rockets and missiles to places such as Syria, sometimes disguised as medicine or spare parts. At other times, AIPAC claims, members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards took control of flights carrying sensitive cargo. Those restrictions were lifted as part of the JCPOA deal. Congress is also considering legislation that could stop Boeing’s sales to Iran by barring the Export-Import Bank from financing planes and preventing the Treasury from authorizing U.S. bank transactions for a sale. The bill was approved in the House last month and is awaiting Senate action. AIPAC claims to have the required number of Senate votes lined up.

Staunch AIPAC supporter, Rep. Brad Sherman, (D-Calif) explained a while back at a hearing of the Financial Services Committee’s trade panel. “When Iran comes forward with a plan to guarantee that these planes are not being used for terrorism or to support Assad then Congress could consider allowing the Boeing sale to go through. We’re being asked to transfer planes to a company, Iran Air that has served as an air force for terrorism. And we’re being told, oh, but just trust them, or just trust that we’ll be able to do something if they violate.”

One veteran foreign policy insider who liaises with Congress on the issue told the Free Beacon that “Literally no one on the Hill takes the Obama administration seriously when they talk about the Iran ransom,” the source said. “Everyone knows the intelligence is politicized to hide the damage done by the president’s diplomacy. There’s a reason every Democrat in Congress voted for locking in Iran sanctions in the Iran Sanctions Act a few weeks ago. American lawmakers have had enough.”
And OFAC is not without friends.

Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has a New Year’s greeting of his own, informing Congress this month in an unclassified communication that the Pentagon does not believe Iran has spent some of the $1.7 billion awarded by the United States as part of what many described as a “ransom” payment to only purchase new military equipment but rather that Iran is also boosting its war machine in Syria, causing “great concern” among regional allies. The General’s assessment concurs with congressional sources and foreign policy insiders who point to recent statements by Iranian officials who frankly said that U.S. funds have been allocated to military sources.

But some in the US intelligence community believe that the $1.7 billion transferred to Iran probably was allocated predominately to Iran’s economic sector, in accordance with Tehran’s stated emphasis on economic expansion, modernization, and diversification.

AIPAC and OFAC don’t buy this assessment and nor do many in the same intelligence community who site Iranian leaders frequently repeated claims earlier this year that Iran had ordered the $1.7 billion be invested in the country’s military budget.

Both claim, as do many members of Congress that Iran has used the US cash infusion to boost its military operations in the region, including in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq and that Iran continues to seek improved missile systems and the replacement of aging military equipment, particularly aircraft and naval vessels.

One veteran foreign policy insider who liaises with Congress on the issue told the Free Beacon that “Literally no one on the Hill takes the Obama administration seriously when they talk about the nuclear agreement and the Iran ransom,” the source said. “Everyone knows the intelligence is politicized to hide the damage done by the president’s diplomacy. There’s a reason every Democrat in Congress voted for locking in Iran sanctions in the Iran Sanctions Act a few weeks ago. American lawmakers have had enough.”
No doubt much more to be made public soon as OFAC requests a 30% increase in its current $ 30.9 million annual budget likely telling the incoming Trump Administration that the increase in needed to make American Great Again and to protect America and her allies from Terrorists.

As a harbinger, OFAC, ever full of holiday spirit just amended its JCPOA FAQs to answer the

Question on the mind of millions: what will happen when Grinch brings the sanctions back?

The US Treasury Department answered on 12/15/2016, when in the spirit of the season, OFAC revised JCPOA FAQs M4 and M5 to instruct all global exporters to Iran that they’ll have 180 days to wind-down their dealings with Iran after sanctions snapback or formal US withdrawal from the JCPOA.  Failure to comply will generate large fines against the exporter and others who may somehow be involved.

This means that any business or entity that has a contract with Iran involving goods that were destined for shipment to Iran since some sanctions were lifted, but the shipments had not yet been completed when the sanctions are re-imposed or snapback happens, is flat out of luck. No 180 days grace period available. OFAC has also instructed businesses having contracts with Iran that they will have 180 days to get paid for goods already delivered to Iran.

And what if a business has goods under production that were destined to Iran but not completed as of the date when sanctions are re-imposed? Does a business have 180 days to finish them, deliver them and get paid?  Nope.  Again the business is out of luck.

As Cliff Burns, an expert on OFAC and the JCPOA advises, “All companies can do is pray to find someone willing to buy the goods at something above salvage value.  Or that OFAC gives you a special license to finish and deliver the goods.” Those who follow OFAC’s case load know that special licenses from the agency are very few and far between.

Long story made short, the JCPOA may be stolen by the OFAC Grinch and Iran is in the cross hairs of the incoming Trump Administration.
It is the case with Israel, the Gulf GCC and other countries opposed to the regime in Tehran, including some countries in the EU are anticipating profits coming their way from international businesses being forced to scuttle contracts with Iran.

One tactic that OFAC has used successfully to block Iran from receiving some of its hoped for economic benefits from JCPOA, is by putting increased pressure on the regime from the people of Iran who were promised by President Hassan Rouhani and others that the JCPOA would substantially grow the country’s economy. This has not and will likely not happen for a few years.

OFAC also continues to scare the international banking system into declining to do business with companies wanting to do business with Iran. The Boards of Directors of many of the largest banks are reportedly simple not prepared to cross OFAC and possibly incur enormous fines. Better to err on the side of caution until there is a revolution in Iran or at least OFAC gives a green light, This view is according to a Congressional Banking committee staffer who claims the same attitude prevails at the US Treasury, Department of Commerce, and the US State Department.

But OFAC may be playing a dangerous game.

While economic sanctions targeting Iran, Syria and Iran among other hostile countries are viewed in Washington as a diplomatic alternative short of war it is worth remembering that sometimes economic sanctions may precipitate war. For example, in 1939 the United States, concerned about Japanese aggression in China, terminated the 1911 commercial treaty with Japan, which laid the groundwork for cutting of exports to Japan. On July 31, under the authority of the Export Control Act passed earlier that month, exports of fuels, lubricant, certain metals to Japan were prohibited.   Effective October 16 of that year, exports of scrap iron and steel to Japan were cut off.  Finally, on July 26, 1941, Roosevelt, utilizing the provisions of the Trading with the Enemy Act froze all Japanese assets in the United States. Japan was provoked as evidenced in an intercepted and decrypted communication between Foreign Minister Teijiro Toyoda to Ambassador Kichisaburo Nomura on July 31, 1941:
“Commercial and economic relations between Japan and third countries, led by England and the United States, are gradually becoming so horribly strained that we cannot endure it much longer. Consequently, our Empire, to save its very life, must take measures to secure the raw materials of the South Seas.”

The U.S. naval presence in the Pacific and specifically at Pearl Harbor was seen by Japan as a threat that could block their country from securing much needed raw materials from the South Seas. The point is that rather than deter war sanctions provoked war at Pearl Harbor. For sure one can argue the obverse, i.e. that Japan’s aggression in China and Asia led to the US sanctions. As OFAC claims is the case with Iran.

Another example of claimed OFAC pettiness and viciousness with respect to Iran is a case three months ago when OFAC fined a company a massive $4,320,000 for selling some items to Iran. No dear reader is what not that the American company sold Iran the latest high-powered computers, drone aircraft or missile parts. The dangerous item sold by PanAmerican Seed company in Illinois were flowers seeds, which if they were of good quality would allow Iranians to grow beautiful flowers as shown in the photo below.

OFAC refused to offer the court a dollar amount of the seeds sold to Iran. This is odd because they usually do offer a dollar estimate to convince the court that a huge fine is justifiable. One of the problems with being targeted with fines by OFAC is that they only very rarely provide exculpatory evidence for those who are alleged to have violated US ‘anti-Terrorism’ laws by dealing with claimed enemies of the United States.

As a justification of the huge $4,320,000 fine to the seed company, OFAC claimed: “PanAm Seed engaged in this pattern of conduct over a period of years, providing over $770,000 in economic benefit to Iran.”

Now this is definitively not the value of the shipment. If $770,000 was the price of the exported goods, then PanAmerican which, presumably, was paid for the seeds by people in Iran, got the $770,000 benefit, or at least however much of that price represented its profit. I suppose this means the profit Iranians made after planting the seeds and selling the flowers, although how OFAC figured that out is rather hard to discern. And if the profits made by Iranian on the seeds is the economic benefit to Iran, then the value of the shipments had to be well south of that figure.

Why OFAC would go to such length to obfuscate the value of the shipments is unclear. Leaving aside that we are talking about petunia seeds here, PanAmerican Seed, at least if OFAC is to be believed, did not behave well. Apparently, it knew what it was doing; it concealed the ultimate destination of the shipments; it refused to cooperate with OFAC when it was turned in; and it apparently provided “inaccurate, misleading, or incomplete” information to OFAC

As the astute Cliff Burns noted at the time, “In any event, it seems that OFAC has better things to do than to tiptoe through the tulips in Tehran.”

But they seemingly do not. This is what OFAC is all about and in my view, having followed their anti-Muslim actions the past few years, OFAC appears to be among the 2 or 3 most Israeli lobby influenced agencies of our American government.

What President Trump’s administration will do is anyone’s guess but for its part Boeing is arguing that the 100,000 American jobs the Boeing-Iran deal should generate is exactly what the US economy needs. New and well-paying jobs as pledged by The Donald during nearly every campaign stop and in every campaign speech he made this past year.

More articles by:

Franklin Lamb volunteers with the Lebanon, France, and USA based Meals for Syrian Refugee Children Lebanon (MSRCL) which seeks to provide hot nutritional meals to Syrian and other refugee children in Lebanon. http://mealsforsyrianrefugeechildrenlebanon.com. He is reachable c/o fplamb@gmail.com.

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