The South Korean government has agreed to unlock part of about $9 billion in frozen Iranian assets that were formerly unavailable because of U.S. sanctions on Iran. The Iranian foreign ministry indicated the money would be used to expand humanitarian aid and won’t violate the sanctions.
Seoul says that part of the money will be used to pay past-due Iranian dues to the UN.
Just coincidentally, Iran seized a South Korean tanker and its crew members last month. I’m sure the unblocking of the assets had nothing to do with Iran taking its ship and people hostage.
As soon as South Korea agreed to talk about the blocked funds, the hostages were released.
According to Iran’s government website, the agreement was reached Monday (Tehran time) during the meeting between Iran’s Central Bank Gov. Abdolnaser Hemmati and South Korean Ambassador to Iran Ryu Jeong-hyun.
It said that the two sides agreed on the destinations for the transfer and that the Iranian central bank informed Seoul of the amount of the money it wants to be transferred.
Tehran has been pressuring Seoul to unblock about US$7 billion of its assets frozen in two South Korean banks due to U.S. sanctions. Seoul has been in talks with Washington on ways to release the money without violating the sanctions, including expanding humanitarian trade with the Middle Eastern country.
The Jerusalem Post calls it “another win for Iran.”
This is the latest win for Iran, as it has also been wringing concessions from Europe, as well as the IAEA, and has been using proxies in Iraq and Yemen to attack US partners and allies.
“Although Iran welcomes the change in the approach of countries and increase in cooperation, the legal pursuits of this bank (CBI) to claim damages due to non-cooperation of Korean banks in recent years will remain strong,” Iran said.
Iran uses piracy and hostage-taking as if they were a normal part of international relations. What’s worse, is that the world — including the U.S. — is playing along with their game.
Until Iran is forced to pay a real cost for their outrageous behavior, they will continue to act as if they don’t need to follow international norms.
The ultimate question is what will the U.S. get in return for allowing the cash transfer? On Monday, Iran gave a partial answer when they threatened to up their uranium enrichment to 60 percent and said they would no longer allow snap inspections by the IAEA at their nuclear facilities.
This has been the pattern of Iranian “negotiations” for 40 years. Whatever peaceful gesture is made by the U.S., Tehran throws it back in our face and demands more. Trump didn’t even try to play that game, but Biden and his old boss Barack Obama — two guilt-ridden Westerners — will pay any price to Iran so they can “make history.”
This kind of legacy-building might look good in the history books but the real-world cost of this appeasement is likely to come back and bite us.