Hah, he let it slip out! Announcing the preparation of even tougher sanctions against the Islamic Republic, the head of the White House tweeted that under the nuclear agreement, the US authorities have unblocked 150-billion-dollar assets of Iran that were previously frozen due to sanctions. At the same time, the current US President made sure to "kick" his predecessor Barack Obama, who concluded the United States' "the most terrible" deal with Iran.
In compliance with an international agreement entitled the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran settled for a significant limitation of its nuclear program in exchange for the US and EU sanctions being lifted, as well as international sanctions imposed on the basis of UN Security Council resolutions.
With JCPOA's entry into force, Iran gained access to part of its assets. So, maybe these billion-dollar Iranian holdings (or rather the unwillingness to part with them) are the very reason behind such an unrestrained desire of Donald Trump to bring Iran to its knees.
First, let's try to puzzle out where the figure quoted by the US President originates. Even before JCPOA formation, there were various estimates of Iran's blocked dollars on foreign accounts. For instance, the summer of 2015 witnessed US President Barack Obama and the US Treasury Department saying that after the IAEA confirms that Iran follows its obligations under the JCPOA, it will get access to 100 billion dollars.
This assessment was actually confirmed by then head of the Iranian Central Bank Valiollah Seif. He even specified that out of the 100 billion dollars 35 were intended for oil projects; 22 were kept in the Bank of China as collateral for the purchase of goods; 23 belonged to the Central Bank of Iran proper, and 6 billion were funds of the Iranian government.
However, both in the run-up to and after the conclusion of the nuclear deal, its opponents hyped that Iran intended to direct the released billions not to the economic development needs. The American mass media poured more fuel to the fire. Thus, the influential Wall Street Journal wrote that Tehran allegedly gave the Palestinian Hamas organization millions of dollars to enhance the "terrorist group's" missile reserves and to restore some Gaza Strip "terrorist tunnels" destroyed by Israel earlier.
Over time, the volume of frozen Iranian money started to grow in the mind's eye of Israel, part of the American media and opposition representatives in the Congress, and with them grew the "threats" coming from Tehran. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu argued that access to such a large fund of 100 billion dollars or more would allow Iran to increase support for Lebanese Hezbollah, Palestinian Hamas and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and would in general strengthen the "terror and war machine which threatens Israel and the entire world."
The Foreign Policy magazine had already provided an estimation of the blocked Iranian funds at 120 billion dollars.
And finally, the Israeli Ambassador to the United States quoted the figure of 150 billion dollars. No similar assessments have been given as yet. It appears that US President Donald Trump used this very source four years later.
It is clear that the overestimations have been chosen for a reason. This allows "biting" the Democrats and Barack Obama even more painfully for having scored the deal so "recklessly". A perfectly politic move in Trump's election marathon for another four-year term in the White House, isn't it?
The deal is "poor" not only because it only temporarily limits and hinders the development of Iran's nuclear program, and its potential could pave the way for Iran's nuclear weapon capability in the future. Another reason is that after the sanctions are lifted, the key contracts for developing oil and gas fields in the Islamic Republic will fall into the hands of European and Chinese oil and gas giants, American companies' world competitors. Which means that the unfrozen assets should float away into the wrong hands, bypassing America.
The demonstratively monetary interest is seen in the Persian Gulf escalation as well. Who did sharpen it after all? In late May, the White House administration announced that Trump intends to use his special powers to control the export of weapons for arms delivery to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan, bypassing the congressional approval. It was about contracts worth more than 8 billion dollars that the Congress had been blocking since November 2018. Speaking at a private Congress briefing, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan tried to convince the legislators (still to no purpose) to settle for the sale of weapons, because otherwise those countries might start buying the necessary armaments from Russia or China "for security reasons".
Trump also announced the introduction of an emergency situation in connection with an allegedly growing threat posed by Tehran. " Iranian malign activity poses a fundamental threat to the stability of the Middle East and to American security at home and abroad," the State Department's Memorandum to Congress said. "The current threat reporting indicates Iran engages in preparations for further malign activities throughout the Middle East region, including potential targeting of U.S. and allied military forces in the region."
And just a couple of weeks later, we see a cascade of events in the Persian Gulf, as if meant to confirm the State Department's fears: suspicious tanker explosions, an incident with a drone which entered the airspace of Iran and was downed by the IRGC air defense forces, Iranian boats' alleged attack on a British tanker, which was by a lucky coincidence observed by an American military aircraft.
At the same time, top generals and high-ranking US administration officials say they do not need a war in the Gulf. So, the purpose of all these clearly planned provocations is not to strike Iran.
Washington does not intend to give up control over the world's largest oil export route through the Strait of Hormuz with a capability of 17 million barrels per day, or about half of the daily global oil exports. It is worth reminding that the world is trading oil mainly in dollars, which gives the United States monumental leverage. Therefore, they will continue inventing excuses for their military presence in the region.
The United States also does not intend to concede the weapon outlets of the solvent Gulf countries to anyone, especially to China and Russia. Washington considers these areas tools for the good of American business leaders and the defense industry. As for the Iranian assets, their fate is very vague, because the United States, as history shows, can hardly part with other people's money or gold that have ever got under their control. And the notorious Iranian "threat" to peaceful navigation, the "nuclear threat" and the Islamic Republic's growing influence in the Middle East are nothing but a disguise to cover America's genuine interests.