Ex-AG Mukasey explains why Obama paid off Iran in cash

One entity within the Iranian government has to deal in untraceable funds. Guess what its specialty is!

There’s been a lot of attention on the recent transfer of $400 million in cash to Iran – delivered in an unmarked plane – as thinly veiled ransom for the release of hostages, even though the Obama Administration has done its best to dress it up as the settling of an old dispute about arms paid for by the Shah before his fall, but never delievered because of his fall.

In today’s Wall Street Journal, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey explains why this may well be true, but it misses a much more troubling point. Obama apparently paid off Iran in cash for two reasons. One was to find a sneaky technicality around existing sanctions law. The other, however, is because the entity within Iran that will likely use the cash is one Obama would rather you didn’t know about:

There is principally one entity within the Iranian government that has need of untraceable funds. That entity is the Quds Force—the branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps focused particularly on furthering the regime’s goals world-wide by supporting and conducting terrorism. This is the entity, for example, that was tied to the foiled plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington, D.C., in 2011, as well as to the successful plot to blow up a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in 1994.

Notably, there is a federal statute that bars the transfer of “monetary instruments”—cash or its equivalent in bearer instruments—with the intent to promote “specified unlawful activity.” That term is defined to include a crime of violence or use of an explosive against a foreign country, a category that would include terrorism.

Proving intent is always difficult, but federal law recognizes that conscious avoidance of knowledge can be enough. So, for example, the person who transfers a firearm to a known bank robber need not be told directly that the weapon will be used in a bank robbery in order to be held responsible when it is—particularly if he took steps to conceal the transfer.

As it happens, though, there is more than one reason why no one in the administration will be prosecuted for consciously avoiding knowledge of how this cash likely will be used, and thereby violating the anti-money-laundering statute—even with proof that the cash was transported in an unmarked plane. For one thing, the law applies only to transfers to or from the territory of the U.S. This transfer occurred entirely abroad.

In addition, there is a legal doctrine that bars the application of criminal statutes to government activity in furtherance of legitimate government business, unless those statutes are clearly meant to apply to such activity. So, for example, the driver of a firetruck cannot be held liable for speeding on his way to a fire.

The cash transfer here was said to have been arranged in furtherance of conducting the foreign relations of the U.S. The conduct of foreign relations is entirely an executive function. Those involved in this transfer would have the benefit of that doctrine.

So delivering a haul of cash to the mad mullahs in an unmarked plane is fine because, while illegal for anyone else to do, it’s just like the fire engine driver speeding to a fire. He has to do it! See how much the one is just like the other?

As for the likelihood that the money will go to the Quds Force to be used for further terrorism, and not to build roads and bridges to benefit the people as Tehran and Washington would have you believe, Mukasey really makes the case that Obama and the State Department have some culpability because they went out of their way not to see what anyone with eyes wide open would see.

The Obama Administration’s entire approach to Iran has been driven by a conceit both Obama and John Kerry share, which is the belief that the U.S. would never have gotten so crosswise with Iran if only truly great, expert diplomats had been on the job. Like, ahem, them. I will never forget Kerry’s haughty declaration about himself during the first debate with President Bush in 2004. Talking about how one deals with foreign leaders, Kerry insisted, “I know how to do this!”

Oh. Does he? All he’s done in dealing with Iran is give them everything they want in exchange for a bad and completely unenforceable deal that everyone can see will turn Iran into a nuclear power. We’ve had problems with Iran because Iran is a terrorist state that attacks us and our allies, not because our diplomats have been too mean to the mullahs.

And now Obama and Kerry are turning a blind eye to the fact that they just bankrolled more terrorist activity. Because it takes a truly great diplomat, I guess, to understand what a great idea that is.

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