On Twitter, Marie Harf has been soundly criticized for the way she has defended the outcome of the Iran nuclear deal. Reports claim that the Obama White House and State Department accidentally gave $100 billion to Iran instead of the promised $50 billion, apparently doubling the agreed upon amount. This stunning math error has some critics on Twitter declaring, “The stupid burns my eyes!” To make matters worse, the U.S. Department has admitted the money could be used to fund terrorism around the world.
A recent report by the Washington Post notes that the $100 billion was based upon previously frozen Iranian assets being released assuming that Iran’s nuclear weapons were reined in by the government in Tehran. Iran has also rejoined international banking networks, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is working on $30 billion in business deals with France and Italy.
“The deal-making — including plans for Airbus passenger jet sales and partnerships with French automaker Peugeot-Citröen — highlighted the interest among many foreign companies in Europe and Asia for quick re-entry into Iran’s large consumer market,” the report stated.
Iran’s government spokesman, Mohammad Bagher Nobakht, claims the $100 billion has been “fully released” from banks in Asia and eastern Europe. Payments for Iran’s oil had been held in escrow-type accounts that were frozen during the sanctions on Iran. Although some critics fear some of this money end up in the hands of militant groups such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Nobakht claims that “some will be used by Iran’s national development fund to buy goods overseas.”
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The problem is that the Obama administration previously said the amount of money would be far less based upon the Iran nuclear deal. Based on a statement from Jay Solomon of the Wall Street Journal, the “White House said it would be” $50 billion, not $100 billion.
In response, Marie Harf, the Senior Advisor for Strategic Communications to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the U.S. State Department, has been responding to critics on Twitter since she’s supposed to be leading the Iran nuclear negotiations communications strategy. Harf told Solomon that it was “experts at the U.S. Treasury Department who did the math and determine how much money Iran would actually get,” which she considers an “important clarification.”
Others would disagree. David Rothkopf, the CEO and editor of Foreign Policy Magazine, declared Harf’s response a “weird distinction” and asked, “Is that really an important clarification? Isn’t Treasury part of the administration?”
“Not weird distinction. When people use ‘White House,’ it sounds political – often inadvertently. Not the case here,” Harf replied. “I think it’s important to know who makes assessments of how much money Iran will actually get under sanctions relief.”
In response, some argued that the White House is responsible for the entire executive branch, including both the U.S. Treasury and Harf’s department. Others wondered why the world only heard about the $100 billion from Iran, not the Obama administration.
— GoodGrief (@KiloMick) February 2, 2016
— House King (@AndrewKing06) February 2, 2016
Marie Harf’s clarification only raised the ire of many on Twitter.
— R Thomas (@Plate0fShrimp) February 2, 2016
— Jordan Hirsch (@jordanchirsch) February 2, 2016
Other employees at the U.S. State Department have also been grilled by reports about the discrepancy between the promised $50 billion and the actual $100 billion “fully released” to Iran. According to the Washington Free Beacon, a reporter asked if there was a “binding parameter of the nuclear accord,” but Kirby claimed Iran would only be able to spend half of the released money.
Our Treasury Department has done the analysis and has determined that “roughly half of the unfrozen assets are already spoken for and will be unavailable to them to use in manners in which they would choose,” Kirby said. “The amount of money, which is their money, that they would now have access to is just a little bit more than $50 billion, because the rest of it, nearly half of the entire freed-up assets… is already tied up in debts to the Chinese, or in other international commitments.”
Kirby also did not deny that Iran could use the money to fund terrorists.
“Well, it’s their money,” Kirby said. “The argument has been that this is a cash windfall that they’re going to just use to fund terrorism. We’ve said we cannot rule out the fact that some of the money may be used to fund their support for terrorism.”
What do you think about Marie Harf’s “clarification” on this issue? Do you think the Obama administration mishandled the Iran nuclear weapons deal?
[Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images]