Iranian media: US unfreezes $8 billion in assets

Tehran claims to have gained access to funds trapped in US since 1979

Lazar Berman is a former breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

The Iranian Central Bank in Tehran. (CC BY-SA Ensie & Matthias, Flickr)
The Iranian Central Bank in Tehran. (CC BY-SA Ensie & Matthias, Flickr)

In the wake of Sunday’s early morning nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, Iranian media reported that the United States released billions of dollars of frozen Iranian assets.

Former Iranian Chamber of Commerce head Alinaqi Khamoushi was quoted in the semi-official Fars News agency saying the Obama administration had allowed Iran to access $8 billion of funds stored in the US.

Washington froze billions of dollars in Iranian assets in the wake of the 1979 Islamic Revolution that saw Iranians storm the US Embassy and capture 52 American hostages.

After the initial rounds of P5+1 talks in October, reports emerged that Washington was weighing giving the Islamic Republic access to billions of dollars’ worth of its funds in exchange for concessions on its nuclear program first emerged.

The plan called for a graduated unfreezing of Iranian overseas assets without rescinding the sanctions themselves, affording US President Barack Obama the capacity to respond to offers made by Iran in the course of negotiations without undoing the years-long effort to put the existing sanctions regime into place, an unnamed senior official in the Obama administration told The New York Times in October.

The official reportedly likened the plan — which was said to still be under debate in the White House and the State Department — to a “financial spigot,” which could be opened and closed at will.

There have been no US confirmations of the reported unfreezing of assets.

Under the deal signed Sunday, in return for Iran’s nuclear curbs, a White House statement promised “limited, temporary, targeted, and reversible (sanctions) relief” to Iran, noting that “the key oil, banking, and financial sanctions architecture, remains in place.” And it said any limited sanctions relief would be revoked and new penalties enacted if Iran failed to meet its commitments.

Kerry said the relief offered would give Iran access to $4.2 billion from oil sales. Approximately $1.5 billion more would come from imports of gold and other precious metals, petrochemical exports and Iran’s auto sector, as well as easier access to “humanitarian transactions.”

“The core sanctions architecture … remains firmly in place through these six months, including with respect to oil and financial services,” Kerry said. He said those sanctions would result in more than $25 billion in lost oil revenues over six months.

Times of Israel staff and AP contributed to this report.

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