Sunday, January 17, 2016
Iran got Pres Obama to cancel sanctions over illegal missile test by threatening to scuttle prisoner swap.
Iran got Pres Obama to cancel sanctions over illegal missile test by threatening to scuttle prisoner swap. (Reuters).
The day before the Obama administration was due to slap new sanctions on Iran late last month, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif warned U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry the move could derail a prisoner deal the two sides had been negotiating in secret for months.
Kerry and other top aides to President Barack Obama, who was vacationing in Hawaii, convened a series of conference calls and concluded they could not risk losing the chance to free Americans held by Tehran.
At the last minute, the Obama administration officials decided to delay a package of limited and targeted sanctions intended to penalize Iran for recent test-firings of a ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead.
This account of previously unreported internal deliberations was provided by two people with knowledge of the matter.
A third official said Obama had approved the decision to delay the sanctions.
A U.S. official said on Saturday there was no connection between the nuclear deal and the release of the Americans.
The prisoner swap could also come under scrutiny from critics who have questioned the Obama administration’s resolve in dealing with Iran and ability to follow through on its pledge to keep a hard line on sanctions outside those imposed on its nuclear program.
Details of the prisoner talks were a closely held secret, so even within the Obama administration few people realized how perilously close the swap came to falling through.
On Dec. 29, Kerry told Zarif the United States intended to impose new sanctions on Iran over the missile test firings, which were deemed to have violated a United Nations ban, according to a U.S. official and congressional sources.
Zarif countered that if Washington went ahead, the prisoner swap was off, the sources said.
Kerry spoke by phone that night with Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and a White House official and the decision was made to hold off on any sanctions announcement, they said. Hmmm........Four prisoners in exchange for ICBM tests ......What could go wrong? Read the full story here.
U.S. Sen. Chris Coons still believes Obama 'admin' will implement Iran sanctions.