The Trump Administration has been trying to break a deal with Iran lately. Under the deal, Iran doesn’t try to develop nuclear weapons. In return, America doesn’t impose some economic sanctions on Iran.
It’s hard to understand what Trump is thinking. Why would we encourage Iran to resume developing nuclear weapons, just so that we can put sanctions back on them?
Normally, the purpose of sanctions is to create economic pain that will force another country to change its policies. But Iran has already abandoned its nuclear program! Undermining American progress on the denuclearization of Iran just to reimpose sanctions seems like a case of putting the cart before the horse.
So, why the eagerness to reimpose sanctions on Iran, when they’re not actually developing nuclear weapon capacities?
One of the side effects of sanctions is that they create demand for money launderers. Sanctions separate bad people from their money. If the bad people want to get their money back, they need to turn to money launderers, who will make the money look like it’s clean and no longer covered by sanctions.
Does Donald Trump have business partners who have been accused of helping Iran circumvent sanctions? Yes. Does Donald Trump have business partners who have profited from the sale of weapons to the Iranian regime? Yes.
There are at least six clear examples that I know of:
- Trump earned at least $5.3 million from business partners in Azerbaijan who have been accused by United States diplomats of laundering money for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
- Trump’s Russian business partner in Toronto partially owned a subsidiary of Russian arms manufacturer Rosoboronexport, which sold weapons to the Iranian and North Korean regimes and participated in an Azerbaijani money laundering operation.
- Trump was once the New York City landlord for a state-owned Iranian bank that was accused by American officials of financing Iran’s nuclear program and terrorist activities orchestrated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
- Trump once had extensive business ties with a company run by the Crown Prince of Dubai, a province of the United Arab Emirates that played an active role smuggling nuclear components and other sanctioned goods into Iran.
- Trump had multiple business dealings with Adnan Khashoggi, the arms dealer who helped broker the Iran Contra arms swap, in which the Reagan Administration secretly traded weapons to Iran to secure the release of American hostages.
- Trump partnered with the Silk Road Group on development projects in Georgia and Kazakhstan, a company that controlled a joint-venture project in the Iranian oil sector that was later targeted by sanctions.
As far as I’m aware, Trump’s connections to Iranian business interests haven’t all been reported out together in a single integrated way. A lot of these cases are frustratingly complex and difficult to explain. Unfortunately, that’s how money laundering is supposed to work. You move a pile of dirty cash around through a bunch of shell companies until people become so confused that they give up trying to figure out where it all started from. But despite its complexity, the overall record is clear. Trump has consistently profited off business with partners who were involved in circumventing sanctions on Iran.