"If the Omani bank had allowed the exchange without such a license, it would have violated sanctions that bar Iran from transactions that touch the US financial system", the AP report added. Despite apparent lobbying by Secretary Lew and others in the Administration, two USA banks refused to facilitate the newly authorized transaction.
Former President Barack Obama reportedly granted licenses that effectively allowed the Iranian government access to the American financial system, despite repeated promises that the administration would bar the Islamic Republic from entry to the markets.
Last month, President Donald Trump announced that he was withdrawing from the 2015 deal reached among seven countries after more than two years of negotiations, calling it "a frightful, one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made".
Despite these direct and repeated assurances to Congress that the Administration would not allow Iran access to either the USA dollar or US financial institutions, US officials took direct action to surreptitiously authorize both of these privileges. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, the subcommittee's chairman. The report says that this conversion process was not allowed under USA sanctions, and that there were other options available to convert such funds - just less efficient.
Republicans have pointed to the revelation as proof that the Obama administration was "desperate" for the Iran deal.
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"This specific license can not be described as 'granting access to the USA financial system, '" the former official said. In order for the conversion to be complete, the rials had to be converted to US dollars, which would then be converted into euros.
According to a draft report from the Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, in 2016 the Treasury Department authorized Iran to convert $5.7 billion in Omani rials to euros through "any United States depository institution".
If the Omani bank had allowed the exchange without such a license, it would have violated sanctions that bar Iran from transactions that touch the USA financial system. The banks correctly concluded that a myriad of legal and liability issues prevented their participation - a conclusion the Treasury Department would have been wise to reach itself.
Obama administration officials at the time assured concerned lawmakers that a general license wouldn't be coming. The U.S. dollar is the world's dominant currency, so allowing it to be used as a conversion instrument for Iranian assets was the easiest and most efficient way to speed up Iran's access to its own funds.