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In a wide ranging phone call to Fox & Friends, President Donald Trump repeated his objection to the 2015 nuclear agreement that rolled back Iran’s nuclear program.
"The past administration made a horrible deal giving $150 billion," Trump said April 26 on the Fox News morning show. "Giving $1.8 billion in cash — in actual cash carried out in barrels and in boxes from airplanes."
Of the two numbers he gave, $150 billion and $1.8 billion, the first is dodgy and the second is slightly exaggerated. And there’s no evidence that barrels and boxes were involved.
We reached out to the White House and will add their response when it arrives.
The 2015 agreement freed up Iranian assets that had been frozen under sanctions. Called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the deal included Iran and the United States, China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the European Union.
The agreement only affected sanctions imposed to punish Iran for its nuclear program. Iran has other assets that remain frozen.
Some conservatives have put the amount released after lifted sanctions as high as $150 billion, which is the highest of estimates we have seen. Another estimate from Iran’s Central Bank topped out at about $29 billion in readily available funds, with another $45 billion tied up in Chinese investment projects and the foreign assets of the Iran’s Oil Ministry.
After talking with officials at Iran’s Central Bank, Nader Habibi, professor of economics of the Middle East at Brandeis University, believes the actual total is between $25 billion and $50 billion.
In July 2015, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew told lawmakers Iran would gain access to $56 billion.
It’s important to know that little of that money was under the control of the United States or any U.S. bank. Most of it, Habibi said, was in central and commercial banks overseas. Furthermore, it was Iran’s money to begin with, not a payment from any government to buy Iran’s cooperation.
The Congressional Research Service, the nonpartisan analytic arm of Congress, reviewed this cash transfer in a 2018 report. It gave a total of $1.7 billion.
That was the amount that U.S. and Iranian negotiators settled on to resolve an arms contract between the United States and Iran that predated the Iranian revolution in 1979. Iran had paid for military equipment, and it was never delivered.
As of 1990, there were $400 million in that account. Negotiators agreed that accrued interest would add $1.3 billion to the amount, which is a lot of money — but 25 years is a long time for interest to build up the balance.
The United States sent the money to Iran in euros, Swiss francs and other currencies. Trump embellished when he mentioned barrels and boxes. Reports at the time said the money was packed and loaded onto pallets, similar to how other bulk goods are shipped.
Trump said that the nuclear deal with Iran gave the country $150 billion, including $1.8 billion from the United States in cash.
The $150 billion is the highest estimate we've seen, and the one with the least evidence to support it. The high-end estimate from the U.S. Treasury Department in 2015 was $56 billion, and outside analysts believe the number could be lower.
The $1.8 billion is reasonably accurate. The official amount is $1.7 billion. However, there’s no evidence that barrels and boxes were involved.
We rate this claim Half True.
Fox News, Fox and Friends, April 26, 2018
Reuters, "Shell repays Iran 1.77 billion euros debt for oil deliveries," March 7, 2016
White House, "Implementation Day," Jan. 16, 2016
The Conversation, "Iran’s frozen funds: how much is really there and how will they be used?" Aug. 11, 2016
Government of Iran, The future of Iran's economy after a nuclear deal, July 30, 2013
U.S. State Department, Letter to House Committee on Foreign Affairs, March 17, 2016
Wall Street Journal, U.S. Transferred $1.3 Billion More in Cash to Iran After Initial Payment, Sept. 6, 2018
Los Angeles Times, $1.7-billion payment to Iran was all in cash due to effectiveness of sanctions, White House says, Sept. 7, 2016
C-SPAN, "Iran Nuclear Agreement," July 23, 2015
PolitiFact, No, Donald Trump, we are not giving Iran $150 billion for 'nothing', March 17, 2016
Interview, Nader Habibi, professor of economics of the Middle East, Brandeis University, April 26, 2018
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