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

Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has written US President Barack Obama another letter.

al-monitor 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. Photo by REUTERS/Hadi Mizban.
Arash Karami

Arash Karami


Topics covered

iranian elections, us-iranian rapprochement, supreme court, nuclear deal, mahmoud ahmadinejad, iranian politics, hassan rouhani, barack obama

Aug 8, 2016

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.

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