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Jon Greenberg
By Jon Greenberg March 22, 2019

Bad math. Iran nuke deal dollars wouldn't cover 30 walls with Mexico

A Facebook page called "Veterans of War Memorial" posted the statement, "We could build 30 walls with the $150 billion Obama gave to Iran."

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

We assume that since 5 X 30 = 150, the author is comparing the $5.6 billion President Donald Trump wanted for a wall in the recent government shutdown to the dollars often bandied about for the Iran nuclear deal.

Both elements have holes.

The cost of a wall

A plain reading of the post is that America could build a wall along the border with Mexico for about $5 billion.

Not so.

The Homeland Security Department never claimed it would. Its plan was to use the funds to build 215 miles along its highest priority sectors.

As things stand today, by the time CBP builds the sections Congress has funded, the United States will have barriers that cover a bit less than a third of the 2,000-mile border.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection estimated it would cost $18 billion for 722 miles of barriers. And that is just for 17 priority locations. The Government Accountability Office said that number is suspect, because it "was based on an average cost per mile and is not intended to reflect the costs of individual construction projects."  

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The point is, $5 billion wouldn’t build a wall with Mexico.

(For what it’s worth, at the rate for the 215 miles Trump sought, it would cost about $30 billion to cover every remaining mile of the border. Other estimates have put the total at over $25 billion.)

Funds to Iran

So, now let’s look at the money in the multinational deal to head off Iran’s nuclear development work. While critics of the deal, such as President Donald Trump, liked to say that Iran got $150 billion out of it, our research shows that’s wrong in several ways.

First, according to testimony from U.S. Treasury Department Secretary Jacob Lew, the total is at most about $56 billion. Some analysts say the sum is even lower than that.

Second, it’s not right to say the United States gave Iran that money. Very little of the total was under American control. The only dollars strictly in the U.S. government’s hands were about $1.7 billion from American weapons that Iran bought, but were never delivered. The rest of the money was Iran’s to begin with and held in banks around the world.

Third, seven governments signed off on the deal, including China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the European Union. So to pin the deal on President Barack Obama alone is off the mark. While he could have scuttled the agreement, so could any of the others.

Our ruling

A Facebook post said that for the money Obama gave Iran, America could build 30 walls with Mexico. The underlying numbers are $150 billion for Iran and $5 billion for a wall with Mexico. None of the numbers hold up.

The Trump administration said the $5 billion it sought for a wall would only build 215 miles worth. That would leave over half the border without a barrier.

The money from the Iran deal netted it perhaps as much as $56 billion, and probably less.

So, $5 billion doesn’t build a wall and Iran didn’t get $150 billion. We rate this post False.

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"We could build 30 walls with the $150 billion Obama gave to Iran."
A post on a Facebook page
Thursday, March 21, 2019

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Bad math. Iran nuke deal dollars wouldn't cover 30 walls with Mexico

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