On the same day that former President Obama is set to make his first official public appearance since leaving the White House, Politico senior investigative reporter Josh Meyer revealed new information that the Iranian “civilians” that had “violated sanctions” released under the Obama administration during the 2016 prisoner swap were actually prisoners that the Department of Justice had declared national security risks. According to the Politico investigation, the White House agreed to release the prisoners and drop the charges of over a dozen fugitives in an effort to close the Iran nuclear deal with the leaders of the Islamic Republic.
In January 2016, the U.S. confirmed that Iran freed four Americans in exchange for seven Iranians who had been convicted of violating U.S. sanctions. While the Obama administration portrayed these Iranians as mere “civilians,” the new report reveals that some were actually national security threats.
In reality, some of them were accused by Obama’s own Justice Department of posing threats to national security. Three allegedly were part of an illegal procurement network supplying Iran with U.S.-made microelectronics with applications in surface-to-air and cruise missiles like the kind Tehran test-fired recently, prompting a still-escalating exchange of threats with the Trump administration. Another was serving an eight-year sentence for conspiring to supply Iran with satellite technology and hardware. As part of the deal, U.S. officials even dropped their demand for $10 million that a jury said the aerospace engineer illegally received from Tehran.
The Politico investigation also revealed that the Department of Justice under President Obama dropped charges against 14 other men, all of which were fugitives. Though the U.S. did not disclose their names or what they were accused of, Politico revealed what those fugitives were charged with.
Three of the fugitives allegedly sought to lease Boeing aircraft for an Iranian airline that authorities say had supported Hezbollah, the U.S.-designated terrorist organization. A fourth, Behrouz Dolatzadeh, was charged with conspiring to buy thousands of U.S.-made assault rifles and illegally import them into Iran.
A fifth, Amin Ravan, was charged with smuggling U.S. military antennas to Hong Kong and Singapore for use in Iran. U.S. authorities also believe he was part of a procurement network providing Iran with high-tech components for an especially deadly type of IED used by Shiite militias to kill hundreds of American troops in Iraq.
The biggest fish, though, was Seyed Abolfazl Shahab Jamili, who had been charged with being part of a conspiracy that from 2005 to 2012 procured thousands of parts with nuclear applications for Iran via China. That included hundreds of U.S.-made sensors for the uranium enrichment centrifuges in Iran whose progress had prompted the nuclear deal talks in the first place.
Meyer reported that one former federal law enforcement supervisor who was involved in finding Iranian arms traffickers and nuclear smugglers said that the Obama administration didn’t release a bunch of businessmen that were in trouble for violating sanctions, as they made it seem.
“They didn’t just dismiss a bunch of innocent business guys,” the former supervisor told Politico. “And then they didn’t give a full story of it.”
You can read Politico’s full investigative report here.