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Rubio Stumps State Dept. About Iran’s Access To U.S. Dollars, Holds Treasury Nominees Until He Gets Answers

Apr 5, 2016 | Press Releases

Washington, D.C. – At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) continued pressuring the Obama Administration for answers on its reported attempts to help Iran illicitly access U.S. dollars.

As a follow-up to Rubio’s still unanswered letter last week to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, the senator today pressed Thomas Shannon, the Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, about reported Obama administration attempts to help Iran evade existing U.S. laws in order to access U.S. dollars. Rubio described one potential scenario that would allow Iran to acquire U.S. dollars and asked Shannon if such an approach was legal.

“I’m not sure. I would have to check because if it doesn’t touch a U.S. bank, if it doesn’t touch the U.S. financial system…” Shannon paused. “Because what our sanctions legislation has done and what we have been able to accomplish in terms of limiting Iran’s access to our larger financial system is we have not permitted U-turn authorization.

“In other words, no exchange of dollars inside the U.S. financial system, and we have not allowed it access to our larger financial system,” Shannon added. “But I do not know, again I’m not a financial expert here, I’d have to check with Treasury, but I do not know if what you just described is authorized under the legislation.”

Later in the hearing, Rubio pressed the Obama Administration on whether Iran accessing U.S. dollars was in any way agreed to as part of the Obama nuclear deal with Iran.

“Was there ever a moment or is it part of this agreement that we would somehow help Iran get access to dollars in some way that did not violate the need to deal directly with the U.S. bank?” Rubio asked. “And you said here today that you are not aware of that ever being part of this agreement or conversation in any way.”

Shannon responded, “Again, I did not take part of the negotiations of the agreement, but my reading of the agreement indicates otherwise.”

Rubio also noted that restricting Iran’s access to the U.S. financial system is not a punitive measure. “The Iranian banking sector posed a hazard because of its laundering activities and so forth. Has Iran taken any actions to halt the use of its financial institutions for money laundering or for other illicit behavior?”

Shannon responded, “My understanding is it’s much more careful about which institutions it uses.  But it still is engaged in money laundering activities that we attempt to block and stop.”

Following the hearing, Rubio indicated that he will hold Treasury Department nominees unless the administration immediately addresses the bipartisan concerns in Congress regarding this issue. 

“I will continue to demand answers on these attempts to give Iran concession after concession even as the regime’s behavior makes clear that it has no intention of halting its threats to Israel and its regional efforts to sow instability,” Rubio said in a statement. “I cannot support the consideration of key Treasury Department officials until I receive clear answers to my letter to Secretary Lew.”

A video of Rubio’s full exchange with the Obama Administration at today’s hearing is available here.