For all the tough talk on the international front the United States has quietly been easing some of the financial restrictions on Iran, a new investigation reveals. But, as one source suggested, the talks may have backfired — and now the White House is feeling vulnerable.
The White House actually softened sanctions right after the new president took office, The Daily Beast reported. That's quite a shift from what's been making the rounds of global media in recent months — that the United States has been talking tough about the need for Iran to give up its nuclear weapons development dreams and allow inspectors free access to uranium-enrichment facilities, or else face more financial clamp-downs and sanctions.
In fact, a September telephone call between President Obama and Iran President Hassan Rouhani played into that perception. It was billed as historic and touted as a diplomatic reach-out to achieve agreement on nuclear issues.
But The Daily Beast's investigation reveals that such talks may have been all for show — that the two leaders had actually reached consensus months ago, and that consensus included a U.S. loosening of sanctions.
"For five months, since Rouhani's election, the United States has offered Iran two major forms of sanctions relief," said Mark Dubowitz, the executive director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a group with a close working relationship with Congress and the White House for Iranian matters, in The Daily Beast report.
"First, there's been a significant slowdown in the pace of designations while the Iranians are proliferating the number of front companies and cutouts to bust sanctions," he said in the report. And the second, he said: The White House has opposed new sanction recommendations against Iran that have come out of Congress.
But the quiet dealing may have backfired for Mr. Obama.
Mr. Dubowitz said Iran has been selling significant amounts of oil on the black market, profiting big from illegal revenues.
"Sounds like Obama decided to enter the Persian nuclear bazaar to haggle with the masters of negotiation and has had his head handed to him," Mr. Dubowitz said, in The Daily Beast.