While tweeting details about his decision to abort a planned strike against Iran, Trump ridiculed the Iran nuclear deal and President Barack Obama while praising his own decision to leave the agreement. Here’s a closer look at some of the claims he made during his tweet thread.
Trump wrote that through the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran, Obama “gave (Iran) 150 Billion Dollars.”
Facts First: The Iran Deal unlocked Iranian assets that were previously frozen due to sanctions, but it’s unclear how much those assets were worth – $150 billion is the highest estimate provided by US officials and it’s thought that Iran could not have accessed all of that money because much of it was tied up in projects overseas.
Trump’s assertion that Obama “gave” Iran this money is not quite accurate. As part of the deal (which multiple countries were involved in), Iranian assets that existed in banks and financial institutions across the world were unfrozen.
Estimates for the value of these assets vary. In an op-ed in 2015, then-Michigan Republican Rep. Dave Trott said sanction relief would add up to somewhere between $50 billion and $150 billion.
At the time, the US Treasury Department estimated that the usable liquid assets Iran would be able to access would equal “a little more than $50 billion,” Adam Szubin, then acting under secretary of treasury, said during a 2015 hearing to the Senate Banking Committee.
The rest, which Treasury estimated to be between $50 billion and $70 billion, “are either obligated in illiquid projects (such as over 50 projects with China) that cannot be monetized quickly, if at all,” Szubin said, before noting, “These assets would not become accessible following sanctions relief.” So $150 billion is a high estimate – the real figure is likely much closer to $50 billion.
Trump also claimed that Obama gave Iran “1.8 Billion Dollars in CASH!”
Facts First: This is roughly true. As part of a settlement, Obama transferred $1.7 billion in cash to Iran in 2016. The administration also used the money to pressure Iran to release several American prisoners.
The Obama administration maintained that the payments were made as a reimbursement to Iran for military equipment that the country had purchased from the US in the late 1970s but the US never delivered on.
The entire $1.7 billion, given in two separate payments of $400 million and $1.3 billion, was provided in cash. The timing of the first payment corresponded with Iran’s release of the American prisoners, which occurred the same day.
While Obama repeatedly said in early August 2016 that the money was not part of a ransom for these Americans, the administration later admitted that the timing of the first installment was used as leverage to get the prisoners released.
As The New York Times reported in late August 2016, “The State Department conceded for the first time on Thursday that it delayed making a $400 million payment to Iran for several hours in January ‘to retain maximum leverage’ and ensure that three American prisoners were released the same day.”
During his Tweet thread, Trump also claimed that the Iran deal had not been “ratified by Congress.”
Facts First: Trump is right. Congress never ratified the Iran deal. The Obama administration did not view it as a treaty and therefore did not have Congress pass the action.
In response to calls for the Senate to ratify the deal, the Obama administration said it was “not a treaty or an executive agreement, and is not a signed document” and thus is not constitutionally required to be ratified by the Senate. (Under the Constitution, the Senate must pass a treaty proposed by the executive branch with a two-thirds majority.)
The Republican-led Congress did pass the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, which Obama signed into law. But the law gave Congress the authority only to review any agreement reached in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, not the right to approve those agreements.