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Obama-era license aimed to let Iran convert money in dollars

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The former officials spoke on condition of anonymity because many are still involved in national security issues.

As the Obama administration pondered how to address Iran’s complaints in 2016, reports in The Associated Press and other media outlets revealed that the U.S. was considering additional sanctions relief, including issuing licenses that would allow Iran limited transactions in dollars. Democratic and Republican lawmakers argued against it throughout the late winter, spring and summer of 2016. They warned that unless Tehran was willing to give up more, the U.S. shouldn’t give Iran anything more than it already had.

At the time, the Obama administration downplayed those concerns while speaking in general terms about the need for the U.S. to live up to its part of the deal. Secretary of State John Kerry and other top aides fanned out across Europe, Asia and the Middle East trying to convince banks and businesses they could do business with Iran without violating sanctions and facing steep fines.

“Since Iran has kept its end of the deal, it is our responsibility to uphold ours, in both letter and spirit,” Lew said at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in March 2016, without offering details.

That same week, the AP reported that the Treasury had prepared a draft of a license that would have given Iran much broader permission to convert its assets from foreign currencies into easier-to-spend currencies like euros, yen or rupees, by first exchanging them for dollars at offshore financial institutions.

The draft involved a general license, a blanket go-ahead that allows all transactions of a certain type, rather than a specific license like the one given to Oman’s Bank Muscat, which only covers specific transactions and institutions. The proposal would have allowed dollars to be used in currency exchanges provided that no Iranian banks, no Iranian rials and no sanctioned Iranian individuals or businesses were involved, and that the transaction did not begin or end in U.S. dollars.

Obama administration officials at the time assured concerned lawmakers that a general license wouldn’t be coming. But the report from the Republican members of the Senate panel showed that a draft of the license was indeed prepared, though it was never published.

And when questioned by lawmakers about the possibility of granting Iran any kind of access to the U.S. financial system, Obama-era officials never volunteered that the specific license for Bank Muscat in Oman had been issued two months earlier.

According to the report, Iran is believed to have found other ways to access its money, possibly by exchanging it in smaller quantities through another currency.

The situation resulted from the fact that Iran had stored billions in Omani rials, a currency that’s notoriously hard to convert. The U.S. dollar is the world’s dominant currency, so allowing it to be used as a conversion instrument for Iranian assets was the easiest and most efficient way to speed up Iran’s access to its own funds.

For example: If the Iranians want to sell oil to India, they would likely want to be paid in euros instead of rupees, so they could more easily use the proceeds to purchase European goods. That process commonly starts with the rupees being converted into dollars, just for a moment, before being converted once again into euros.

U.S. sanctions block Iran from exchanging the money on its own. And Asian and European banks are wary because U.S. regulators have levied billions of dollars in fines in recent years and threatened transgressors with a cutoff from the far more lucrative American market.

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Pennsylvania high court throws out challenge to mail-in ballots

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Saturday rejected an election challenge spearheaded by U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, who argued that a law permitting no-excuse mail voting violated the state Constitution.

Kelly, along with several other Pennsylvania Republicans, sought to invalidate millions of mail-in votes, which could have ceded a key state won by President-Elect Joe Biden to President Donald Trump.

The ruling said, “Petitioners sought to invalidate the ballots of the millions of Pennsylvania voters who utilized the mail-in voting procedures. … Alternatively, Petitioners advocated the extraordinary proposition that the court disenfranchise all 6.9 million Pennsylvanians who voted in the General Election and instead ‘direct the General Assembly to choose Pennsylvania’s electors.'”

The high court ruled no on all counts and said, “All other outstanding motions are dismissed as moot.” It said the claim could have resulted in the “disenfranchisement” of millions of voters.

A spokesman for Kelly did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The state Supreme Court unanimously wiped out a lower court order that had blocked state officials from doing anything further to carry out this week’s certification of the election results.

The court criticized plaintiffs for filing the suit more than a year after universal mail-in voting was established in the state and said they lacked “due diligence.”

The suit is one of more than 26 pro-Trump election challenges dismissed by courts in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, Nevada, Georgia and elsewhere.

The president has claimed his loss is the result of widespread fraud but so far not a single court, including some headed by Trump appointees, have agreed.



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Britain will announce no-deal Brexit NEXT WEEK unless the EU concedes warns Downing Street

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DOWNING STREET sources have warned the UK could be a week away from trade talks with the EU breaking down.

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Brexit ULTIMATUM: 'No sell out' to Brussels to get a deal, vows Boris

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BORIS Johnson has vowed that there will be “no sell out” with Brussels to get a Brexit trade deal.

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