Eli Lake, whose credibility fell off a wall and shattered sometime around 2003 and still hasn’t been put back together, despite the best efforts of all the king’s horses and all the king’s men,
is very mad today because the United States is sending military aid to Iran (when we should be sending cruise missiles directly to downtown Tehran, amirite?). No, this isn’t like that time in the 1980s when Ronald Reagan illegally sold weapons to Iran because Israel wanted him to and so that he could use the proceeds to fund right-wing death squads in Central America. No, this time it’s Actually Bad! America is “inadvertently paying” for an increase in Iran’s military budget! Check it out:
It all starts with $1.7 billion the U.S. Treasury transferred to Iran’s Central Bank in January, during a delicate prisoner swap and the implementation of last summer’s nuclear deal to resolve a long-standing dispute about Iran’s arms purchases before the revolution of 1979.
For months it was unclear what Iran’s government would do with this money. But last month the mystery was solved when Iran’s Guardian Council approved the government’s 2017 budget that instructed Iran’s Central Bank to transfer the $1.7 billion to the military.
Oh damn, that’s incontrovertible right there! Sure, Iran’s total 2017 military budget, including the increase and going with Lake’s own figures, is about $19 billion, compared to somewhere just shy of $600 billion for the US, but…well, actually, that’s a really big difference. Anyway here’s the deal with that $1.7 billion: it’s not actually America’s money. Lake again:
Republicans and some Democrats who opposed Obama’s nuclear deal have argued that the end of some sanctions would help to fund Iran’s military. But at least that was Iran’s money already (albeit frozen in overseas bank accounts). The $1.7 billion that Treasury transferred to Iran in January is different.
A portion of it, $400 million, came from a trust fund comprising money paid by the government of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, a U.S. ally, for arms sold to Iran before the 1979 revolution. Those sales were cut off in 1979 after revolutionaries took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held the American staff hostage for 444 days. The remaining $1.3 billion represents interest on the $400 million principle over more than 36 years.