The Trump administration waived key sanctions on Iran’s main propaganda network last month, causing outrage among Iranian dissidents and administration insiders who tracked the effort to a little known Obama-era side deal with Iran that bars these sanctions from being implemented, according to multiple sources who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.
The Trump administration, in an unpublicized move, waived sanctions on Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, or IRIB, a satellite service that disseminates propaganda across Iran and routinely censors content. Iranian dissidents who took to the streets in a renewed wave of protests had called on the Trump administration to sanction the IRIB in a bid to prevent the Iranian regime from crushing the latest protests.
While the Trump administration had initially promised to issue new sanctions on the IRIB, the State Department blocked the effort due to a little-known agreement reached between the Obama administration and Iran during the sensitive negotiations that led to the landmark nuclear agreement.
The Free Beacon first reported on this secret agreement last month, when several lawmakers on Capitol Hill disclosed that they were working to unearth details about this agreement barring new sanctions on the IRIB, which has been working to censor content that Iran believes would fuel further dissatisfaction with the ruling regime.
The decision to waive the IRIB sanctions at a key juncture in Iranian society has roiled dissidents who believed the Trump administration would rush to support their protests against the ruling regime, which has squandered billions of dollars it received under the nuclear deal on foreign wars and military equipment, rather than the ailing Iranian economy.
Multiple sources who work on these issues expressed frustration at the Trump administration, which issued tough rhetoric supporting the protests in Iran, but failed to follow through with policy decisions such as new sanctions that could have boosted these protestors.
The Obama administration struck a deal in 2013 with Iran that waived existing sanctions on the IRIB as part of an agreement reached under the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization, or ITSO.
Since that agreement, the United States has waived sanctions every 180 days on the IRIB, despite evidence it continues to censor content and jam broadcasts the hardline ruling regime finds unacceptable, sources said. The latest waiver was quietly issued in mid-January, when Iranian protestors were still swarming the streets to express opposition to the regime, according to a copy of that communication viewed by the Free Beacon.
The little-known ITSO agreement with Iran has received new scrutiny as lawmakers and others seek to discover how the Obama administration reached this deal and why many in Congress were never briefed on the matter.
The issue has been further complicated by clear evidence the IRIB is breaching its promise to stop jamming broadcasts and other signals it finds objectionable.
However, in issuing waiver, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson claimed “this waiver is vital to the national security of the United States because it furthers the free flow of information into Iran, a key element of the president’s new U.S. strategy on lran,” according to a copy of the communication sent to Congress and obtained by the Free Beacon.
Tillerson further stated it is vital to uphold the Obama-era agreement with Iran, despite objection by dissidents who have provided evidence over the past month that the IRIB continues to censor content.
One veteran GOP congressional adviser who has privately clashed with the Trump administration over its Iran policy told the Free Beacon the ITSO agreement barring sanctions on the IRIB appears to be part of a series of secret side deals struck between the Obama administration and Iran in the lead up to the nuclear deal.
We continue to find that as bad as the Iranian deal is, it actually gets worse.