Why are we giving Ayatollah access to our financial system just as Justice Department indicts Iranian hackers? 


We have just finished celebrating the Jewish Holiday of Purim. It is the one day in the Jewish calendar where merrymaking and drinking are sanctioned to the point where you can’t tell the difference between the bad guy (Haman)and the good guy (Mordechai).

But even with the ISIS Belgium attacks still reverberating across the globe, we’re left wondering if the spirit of Purim hasn’t infected the White House.

How else to explain two parallel headlines emanating from Washington? First, in an unprecedented indictment as the U.S. Justice Department targeted aliens working for a foreign government for disrupting, over a two-year period, key web sites of the New York Stock Exchange, Capital One, AT&T and PNC. Also included was a dam (yes a dam!) in Upstate New York. Hundreds of thousands of customers were inconvenienced and the financial institutions were damaged to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.  

Guess who did it? Seven Iranian hackers, ostensibly working for two Iranian “companies,” but probably agents of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. The indictment described the attacks as “systematic,” “widespread,” the cause of “potential havoc.”

Headline No. 2: After a summer of promises to the U.S. Congress from the highest levels of the Obama Administration that Iranian sanctions relief under its deal with Tehran would be only “nuclear-related” and not extend to Iranian activities related to terrorism and human rights abuses, the Administration is now reportedly poised to dismantle the last bulwark of what used to be the sanctions regime by allowing Tehran’s mullahs access to the U.S. dollar. U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew swore in July 2015 testimony that, under no circumstances, would Iran be given access to “the world’s largest financial and commercial market.” Adam Szubin, the chief of the Treasury Department’s sanctions enforcement office, declared that Iran would not be allowed to “dollarize” foreign payments. But now, the mullahs are impatient over the pace of the vast sanctions relief they were given, to say nothing of their $100 billion-plus windfall, so these solemn commitments of Obama officials are to be thrown in the waste basket already full of mendacious testimony and empty promises about the nuclear deal.

Apparently we are about to witness another bonanza for the Iranians. It will be the end of any effective sanctions for years and maybe decades. There will be nothing left with which to effectively pressure Tehran short of war. Moreover, according to Jack Schanzer and Mark Dubowitz, sanctions experts at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, once implemented, the negative consequences for the global financial system and the U.S. dollar are potentially “devastating”: letting Iran access to U.S. dollars would signal to the world that we’ve vetted Iran’s financial system. Global watchdogs who monitor money laundering and terror financing, like the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), would slowly begin to stand down. 

Signs of the continuing frivolous spirit of Purim abound, as word has also leaked that the Obama Administration has agreed to pay Tehran hundreds of millions of dollars plus over a billion dollars in interest for President Jimmy Carter’s failure to deliver on a massive arms deal. This, after the Ayatollah Khomeini toppled the Shah in 1979 and held U.S. hostages after ransacking our embassy! What’s next? Compensating Haman’s descendants for his execution after the evil Persian foreign minister attempted genocide of the Jewish people in the Persian Empire over 2,000 years ago failed?

One can only hope that the next president of the United States will stay out of Middle East Bazaars. Because the last president to do so, got taken to the cleaners by the Ayatollah Khamenei. And it looks like we and our Middle East allies will be paying a hefty price for that folly for many Purims to come. 

Rabbi Abraham Cooper is Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Dr. Harold Brackman, a historian is a consultant to the Simon Wiesenthal Center.


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