Secret Obama-Era Deal With Iran Derails Key Sanctions on Iran’s Propaganda Network

US Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on April 22, 2016

US Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on April 22, 2016 / Getty Images

 

Iranian dissidents outraged over Trump admin decision to waive sanctions of Tehran’s propaganda machine

The Trump administration waived key sanctions on Iran’s main propaganda network last month, causing outrage among Iranian dissidents and administration insiders who tracked the effort to a little known Obama-era side deal with Iran that bars these sanctions from being implemented, according to multiple sources who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.

The Trump administration, in an unpublicized move, waived sanctions on Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, or IRIB, a satellite service that disseminates propaganda across Iran and routinely censors content. Iranian dissidents who took to the streets in a renewed wave of protests had called on the Trump administration to sanction the IRIB in a bid to prevent the Iranian regime from crushing the latest protests.

While the Trump administration had initially promised to issue new sanctions on the IRIB, the State Department blocked the effort due to a little-known agreement reached between the Obama administration and Iran during the sensitive negotiations that led to the landmark nuclear agreement.

The Free Beacon first reported on this secret agreement last month, when several lawmakers on Capitol Hill disclosed that they were working to unearth details about this agreement barring new sanctions on the IRIB, which has been working to censor content that Iran believes would fuel further dissatisfaction with the ruling regime.

The decision to waive the IRIB sanctions at a key juncture in Iranian society has roiled dissidents who believed the Trump administration would rush to support their protests against the ruling regime, which has squandered billions of dollars it received under the nuclear deal on foreign wars and military equipment, rather than the ailing Iranian economy.

Multiple sources who work on these issues expressed frustration at the Trump administration, which issued tough rhetoric supporting the protests in Iran, but failed to follow through with policy decisions such as new sanctions that could have boosted these protestors.

The Obama administration struck a deal in 2013 with Iran that waived existing sanctions on the IRIB as part of an agreement reached under the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization, or ITSO.

Since that agreement, the United States has waived sanctions every 180 days on the IRIB, despite evidence it continues to censor content and jam broadcasts the hardline ruling regime finds unacceptable, sources said. The latest waiver was quietly issued in mid-January, when Iranian protestors were still swarming the streets to express opposition to the regime, according to a copy of that communication viewed by the Free Beacon.

The little-known ITSO agreement with Iran has received new scrutiny as lawmakers and others seek to discover how the Obama administration reached this deal and why many in Congress were never briefed on the matter.

“Everyone knows the Obama administration made secret goodwill concessions, going back many years before the deal, to boost Iran,” said the source, who would only speak on background so as not to upset sensitive discussion. “But the public still doesn’t know the full scope or nature of those concessions, because the Trump administration has been keeping many of the documents and side deals secret.”

“Here, you have one dealing with Iran’s propaganda infrastructure. And of course, more broadly, there are Trump officials working on ‘fixing’ the nuclear deal, so they can sell an ‘agreement’ to the president, without really doing that at all,” the source said.

Amir Etemadi, an Iranian dissident who opposes the hardline regime, told the Free Beacon the Trump administration could have sent a strong message by reinstating sanctions on Iran’s propaganda network.

“Revocation of a waiver suspending U.S. sanctions targeting IRIB—the Islamic Republic’s principal tool for the creation and dissemination of propaganda and the repression of opposition voices—would have sent a powerful message to the people of Iran that President Trump and the United States are firmly on their side and committed to supporting them in their struggle against a brutally oppressive theocracy,” Etemadi said. “During and after recent nationwide protests in Iran, Iranians explicitly asked President Trump to take this action. Unfortunately, he did not heed their call and thus missed a significant opportunity.”

Full article: Secret Obama-Era Deal With Iran Derails Key Sanctions on Iran’s Propaganda Network (Washington Free Beacon)

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