Skip to main content

Ahmadinejad wants Obama to give back Iran’s $2 billion

Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has written US President Barack Obama another letter.
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (C) meets with Iraq's Vice President Khudair al-Khuzaie (not seen) during his visit in Baghdad July 18, 2013. REUTERS/Hadi Mizban/Pool (IRAQ - Tags: POLITICS) - RTX11QSK

According to Iranian media outlets, Iran’s former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has written President Barack Obama a letter.

The letter stated that despite Obama’s campaign slogans promising change, “the same hostile policies along with the same trend of enmity were pursued” against Iran. One of the many instances of the continued hostility toward Iran, according to Ahmadinejad, was the Supreme Court ruling that blocked $2 billion of Iran’s assets in the United States and awarded it to victims of terrorism. Ahmadinejad wrote that this ruling was “counter to legal principles” and asked Obama that the “seized property [be] released and returned.”

Ahmadinejad concluded that his letter is “by no means of political nature, but merely of standpoint of human rights and for protecting the inalienable rights of my nation.”

The timing and focus of Ahmadinejad’s letter is perhaps revealing of the former president’s future intentions. While Ahmadinejad has been relatively quiet as a former president, he has been speaking at events and rallies across the country in recent months. Whether in Tehran or other provinces, Ahmadinejad still draws a large enough crowd to pack venues. It is no surprise then that some view the timing of the letter to be linked to speculation that Ahmadinejad intends to run for president again, hoping to deny President Hassan Rouhani a second term.

If Ahmadinejad does run for office, his opponents will certainly blame him for the seizure of $2 billion in the United States, a decision that was upheld by the US Supreme Court in April. It was under Ahmadinejad’s administration that the decision was made by the Central Bank of Iran to purchase American bonds, despite the objections of experts and analysts at the time, according to Iran’s Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri. Given that Iranian laws restrict electioneering to a few weeks before the election, Ahmadinejad wisely stressed that the letter was not political. Ahmadinejad is well-known for writing letters, and this likely will not be his last before the May 2017 election. Ahmadinejad wrote Obama in 2008 congratulating him on his victory. In 2010, Ahmadinejad told Iranian television that he had written Obama another letter. Ahmadinejad had also written an 18-page letter to former President George W. Bush offering solutions to resolving the differences between the two countries. Ahmadinejad had also once written a letter to Pope Benedict XVI.

It seems unlikely that Obama will intervene with a Supreme Court ruling and give Iran back $2 billion, especially after the January transfer of $400 million of Iran’s money back to the country, a case dating to before the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Critics accused Obama of giving back the money in exchange for Iranian-American prisoners held in Iran, calling it a “ransom.” The transfer took place as Iran and the United States implemented the nuclear deal. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had previously said that the negotiations over the nuclear deal and the release of prisoners were two separate negotiations and their timing was coincidental. The United States also released a number of Iranians who were held for sanctions violations.

Secretary of Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani echoed the comments by Zarif Aug. 8. He said that the original money given to the United States for the sale of arms was suspended after the revolution. He added that Iran had attempted to retrieve the money on previous occasions as well.

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.

Already a Member? Sign in


The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.


What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial
What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to and we'll onboard your team.

Already a Member? Sign in

The Middle East in your inbox Insights in your inbox.

Deepen your knowledge of the Middle East

Trend Reports

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (4th R) attends a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (3rd L) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on February 22, 2019. (Photo by HOW HWEE YOUNG / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read HOW HWEE YOUNG/AFP via Getty Images)

From roads to routers: The future of China-Middle East connectivity

A general view shows the solar plant in Uyayna, north of Riyadh, on March 29, 2018. - On March 27, Saudi announced a deal with Japan's SoftBank to build the world's biggest solar plant. (Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE / AFP) (Photo credit should read FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images)

Regulations on Middle East renewable energy industry starting to take shape

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial