Contradicting Kerry, Iran Claims $100 Billion in Sanctions Relief ‘Fully’ Released

By Patrick Goodenough | February 1, 2016 | 6:35 PM EST

Secretary of State John Kerry holds a one-on-one conversation with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on the sidelines of the nuclear talks, at the Palais Coburg in Vienna on July 3, 2015. (Photo: State Department/ Public Domain)

(CNSNews.com) – Iran now has access to more than $100 billion in formerly frozen assets that has been “fully” released as a result of the nuclear deal, regime spokesman Mohammad-Baqer Nobakht has claimed in an interview with state-owned television.

“These assets have fully been released and we can use them,” Press TV quoted Nobakht as telling the Alalam TV network late Sunday. He said much of the money – Iranian oil revenues – had been held in banks in China, India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey for years because of sanctions imposed over the nuclear program.

With Iranian banks now reconnected to SWIFT – the global cross-border financial transactions system from which Iran was excluded in 2012 – those funds could now be repatriated. However, he said much of it would not be brought directly home, but instead be used for purchases and investments abroad.

Nobakht’s claim contradicts assurances by Secretary of State John Kerry that the actual benefit to Iran resulting from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal would amount to some $55 billion.

When he appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on July 28 last year to defend the deal finalized in Vienna a fortnight earlier, he stated, “We’re not talking about 150 billion, we’re not talking about 100 billion; we’re actually talking about about 55 billion dollars that will go to Iran.”

Speaking to Reuters the following month, Kerry reiterated the point.

“There’s an enormous amount of distortion out there. For instance, people talk about $100 billion, 150 billion going to Iran, a great windfall,” he said.

“It’s not, not going to happen. The actual amount of money that Iran will possibly get in cash is about 50 billion – 50 to 55 billion. Why? Because of their 115 that is on the books, about 20-plus is committed to China service projects, there is tens of billions in nonperforming loans, and there are huge amounts otherwise already committed according to the government.”

And in Davos last month, Kerry told CNBC that although sanctions relief will free up about $100 billion in frozen Iranian funds, Iran will only have access to around $55 billion since the rest would go towards repaying debts.

“Iran will get, approximately – according to the Treasury Department and all of the analysis of our intelligence community – about $55 billion,” he said.

“Why won’t they get the 100 that some people refer to? Because a large chunk of it is already committed to China, to other countries, through loans and long-term commitments that have been made.”

Kerry went on to say that Iran will likely use most of what it does get to modernize its oil sector and other infrastructure not maintained or invested in for years because of the sanctions

He also conceded that Iran would probably “at some point” use some of the funds its receives as a result of sanctions relief to sponsor terrorism.

On Twitter on Monday night, a journalist highlighted a news story on Tehran’s $100 billion claim and noted a discrepancy between that amount and the smaller sum cited by the administration.

“Iran claims it now has access to $100B in frozen oil revenues under Iran Deal. White House said it would be $50B,” he tweeted.

That brought a response from Kerry’s strategic communications advisor, Marie Harf, who tweeted: “Important clarification – it was experts at US Treasury Dept who did the math & determined how much $ Iran would actually get.”

When other Twitter users questioned the distinction, Harf tweeted again:  “I think it’s important to know who makes assessments of how much $ Iran will actually get under sanctions relief.”

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow

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