Iran to Regain up to $130.5 Billion

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks during a meeting via video conference in Tehran, Iran, February 17, 2022. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via Reuters)

The imminent agreement with Iran is no deal at all; it’s a steal.

Iran is simply cashing in on the weak resolve of U.S. negotiators. Tehran loses little with the deal’s nuclear limits; its breakout time goes from five weeks to under six months (I’m afraid that’s no sigh of relief). Yup, that’s our side of the bargain. Iran’s is much sweeter; as the Editors wrote last week:

The agreement Biden is reportedly contemplating imposes no restrictions on what Iran may do with its windfall — not on terrorism, support for terrorist proxies, ballistic-missile development, hostage-taking, and the rest of its atrocious menu.

But what exactly is the number value of that “windfall”? Saeed Ghasseminejad, a senior adviser on Iran and financial economics at the Foundation for Defense of Democracy, estimated the price tag to be in the hundred of billions:

When the administration lifts sanctions, Tehran will immediately gain access to an estimated $86.1 billion to $130.5 billion in foreign assets that currently are not fully accessible and readily available.

Most of the assets were cut off from the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) when Trump blocked Iranian banks from SWIFT in 2018. The CBI is also sanctioned for supporting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Quds Force, and Hezbollah. Since 2018, those assets have been frozen in foreign bank accounts. Despite U.S. sanctions, Ghasseminejad reports that those assets have grown since 2018 for a variety of reasons, one being a lack of enforcement of sanctions on Iran:

Iran’s neighbors and China have not been keen on enforcing trade sanctions against the Islamic Republic, so Iran continued to accumulate export revenue in foreign accounts it could not fully access

China isn’t the only culprit; as I’ve written before, under the Biden administration, the U.S. has been lax in enforcing its own sanctions, overlooking oil trade between Iran and Venezuela.

Tehran won’t just regain its overseas assets, it will also be cashing in on record-breaking oil prices. Indeed, the Iranian oil minister, Javad Owji, said that as soon as a deal is struck in Vienna, Iran can achieve “maximum oil production capacity in less than one or two months.”

Ghasseminejad’s most concerning observation is not the payoff itself, but what Iran intends to do with it:

Tehran likely will also invest a significant portion in its military, particularly the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. In addition, the regime will likely double down on its support for its terrorist proxies across the region, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen, and various militant groups in Iraq.

With the Biden administration intending to lift terrorism sanctions, at least Iran isn’t violating the rules.