Throughout the P5+1 negotiation process President Obama, Secretary of State Kerry and all those speaking for the Administration have promised that if a deal is made, the only Iranian sanctions that will be lifted were those imposed withe the purposed of eliminating their nuclear weapons program. In fact the famous “fact sheet” distributed on April 2, the day the framework deal was announced said The April 2 fact sheet they circulated stated “U.S. sanctions on Iran for terrorism, human rights abuses, and ballistic missiles will remain in place under the deal.” According to the Associated Press that promise like many made since Obama took office in 2009, has been tossed out the window.

From the very beginning of the article, the AP is clear what’s going on, that the U.S. is going to roll back the non- nuclear sanctions:

The Obama administration may have to backtrack on its promise that it will suspend only nuclear-related economic sanctions on Iran as part of an emerging nuclear agreement, officials and others involved in the process tell The Associated Press. 

Per the report the sanctions that were imposed on Iran to block money laundering and ballistic missile development will also be rolled back. Twenty-three out of twenty-four of the currently sanctioned Iranian banks will get their “get out of jail free cards” and will be allowed to do business with the west, including the Big Kahuna of sanctioned banks crucial Central Bank of Iran (CBI).

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While they will try, even for an administration as dishonest as the Obama administration it will be difficult to spin lifting the sanctions on the CBI as nuclear-related relief. The CBI is government owned and per the AP:

The bank underpins Iran’s entire economy, and for years the U.S. avoided hitting it with sanctions, fearing such action would spread financial instability and spike oil prices. By late 2011, with Iran’s nuclear program advancing rapidly, Obama and Congress did order penalties, declaring the bank a “primary money laundering concern” and linking its activity to ballistic missile research, terror financing and support for Syrian President Bashar Assad. [Not the nuclear weapons program].

Secondary sanctions that prevent other countries from flooding Iran with cash will also be removed. According to the AP Iran wants these sanctions lifted also therefore, now the administration officials say all sanctions on the bank are nuclear-related. In the midst of being booed during Sunday’s Jpost conference, Jack Lew explained that a nuclear accord would include the suspension of all “secondary” oil, trade and banking restrictions — those that apply to U.S. and non-U.S. banks, as well as foreign governments.

Lifting those sanctions will make  “it easier for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and its police, intelligence services and paramilitary groups to do business.”

This is a total negation of the administration’s assurances that the Iranians would only get nuclear-related relief, and that sanctions relating to Iran’s non-nuclear military and terror-related activities would remain. Of course they wouldn’t agree with that statement because they are changing their definitions.

What this wordplay means is the final deal will give Iran hundreds of billions of dollars to do what they want, while dropping restrictions might have prevented them from using the money to fund their ballistic missile program, global terror activities, or regional proxy wars.

That possibility has Iran’s rivals in the region, including Israel and the Sunni monarchies of the Middle East, gravely worried.

“I share their concern,” Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, said Tuesday in Jerusalem. “If the deal is reached and results in sanctions relief, which results in more economic power and more purchasing power for the Iranian regime, it’s my expectation that it’s not all going to flow into the economy to improve the lot of the average Iranian citizen,” he said. “I think they will invest in their surrogates. I think they will invest in additional military capability.”

That wont stop the “most transparent administration in history.” Obama officials told the AP that they’re not backtracking because, if you think about it, almost all sanctions are sort of nuclear related in a way. After all, the nuclear program is being implement by humans with two ears and eyes, and coincidentally so are the money laundering, terror, and ballistic programs.  Okay perhaps its not that bad…but it’s close:

“Officials say the administration can meet its obligations because of how it interprets nuclear sanctions. For example, they say measures designed to stop Iran from acquiring ballistic missiles are nuclear-related because they were imposed to push Iran into the negotiations. Also, they say sanctions that may appear non-nuclear are often undergirded by previous actions conceived as efforts to stop Iran’s nuclear program.”

That is just an exercise in semantic masturbation. It’s just not how things happened. Of course Congress has imposed sanctions on Iran over its nuclear work, but lawmakers also imposed sanctions over the funding of conventional revolutionary guard activities, human rights abuses, global terrorism, ballistic missile development, and a range of other activities.

The Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 was about nuclear issues, but also separately about terrorism, ballistic missile development, and non-nuclear WMDs (the very first provision is the sunset provision and involves Presidential certification; the first requirement has zero to do with nuclear work (it’s entirely about international terrorism). The second requirement separates out nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons from ballistic missile technology and requires certification on all of them. In 2011 Treasury identified the entire country of Iran as a jurisdiction of primary money laundering concern, which is an illicit finance issue. That finding was then cited at the top of the 2011 Kirk-Menendez amendment to the 2012 defense authorization bill, which was about terrorism.

To believe that ballistic missile sanctions are nuclear sanctions you’d have to believe that Congress never tried to impose sanctions because of all of the other things that Iran can put on top of their ballistic missiles. That’s just not how the laws read. The claim isn’t even defensible in the context of the current round of Iran negotiations. If anything it’s less defensible. The interim Joint Plan of Action and the final Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action have never treated ballistic missiles as a nuclear issue and they’ve always distinguished between ballistic missile sanctions and nuclear-related sanctions.

There’s never debate about this:

  • The JPOA by design froze all Iranian nuclear-related activity, but there were zero restrictions on ballistic missiles.
  • The JPOA prohibited the United States from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions, but in April 2014 the Treasury Department issued new designations related to Iranian ballistic missile procurement activities.
  • Again, the April 2 fact sheet describing the JCPOA stated flat out “U.S. sanctions on Iran for terrorism, human rights abuses, and ballistic missiles will remain in place under the deal.”

There’s an old saying if like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it must be a duck. But in this case if like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, but to protect his legacy Obama calls it a cow—well dammit–it’s a cow.