During his address to the nation this morning about the situation with Iran, President Trump said the ballistic missiles that targeted two U.S. air bases in Iraq were paid for using “funds made available by the last administration.” This assertion enraged Democrats and their media allies such as the Washington Post.
Is their outrage justified? I see two issues here. The first is whether President Trump should be calling out his predecessor, especially at a time when national unity (however slender the hope for it may be) is particularly important.
I don’t think Trump should be. His criticism of President Obama was gratuitous. The purpose of Trump’s address was to inform the country about the Iranian attack on our our bases and related matters. There was no reason to take a potshot at Obama.
I should add, however, that, as president, Obama rarely missed an opportunity to blame his predecessor, George W. Bush, for whatever ailed America at a given moment. Until Trump came along, Obama was by far the least gracious president of my lifetime.
The second issue is whether Trump was correct in saying that the missiles Iran fired at our bases were paid for with “funds made available” by the Obama administration. I think he mostly is.
We can’t possibly know which specific monies paid for the missiles in question. But Trump didn’t say that those missiles were bought with funds supplied by the Obama administration. He said, in essence, that the monies to purchase them were available thanks to the Obama administration’s payments to the regime.
We can’t know this for sure, either. However, as David Harsanyi says, we do know that money is fungible and that the Iranian military, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, and Hezbollah were the major beneficiaries of the funds Obama handed over.
Thus, it’s reasonable to suppose, at a minimum, that Iran had more missiles available to fire at our bases than it would have possessed if the regime hadn’t been bailed out financially by Obama. At any rate, Trump’s statement is hardly “far-fetched,” which is how the Post characterized it.
Media apologists for Obama, and for Iran, such as CNN, Andrea Mitchell, and the Washington Post, counter that the money Obama turned over belonged to Iran. Even if this were true, it wouldn’t overcome Trump’s claim that Obama made available funds that enabled the attack on our bases. Whatever the equities, Iran didn’t have those funds until Obama handed them over.
In any case, I agree with Harsanyi that that the funds in question did not belong to Iran. He explains:
In 2016, the United States was in the middle of an unresolved dispute in front of the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal at The Hague over cash advanced by the Shah for military equipment we refused to deliver after the 1979 revolution. . . .
It is unlikely that U.S. would ultimately have been obligated to hand over a single deutschmark to the mullahs. For one thing, the U.S. had its own counterclaims over Iran’s many violations — which, in total, exceeded the amount supposedly “owed” to it. Obama, in his obsessive goal of placating Iran to procure a deal, unilaterally dismissed a stipulation held by the previous administration that the United States wouldn’t release funds until other court judgments held against Iran for its terrorist acts on American citizens were all resolved.
Let’s remember, until the Wall Street Journal reported that the administration had secretly airlifted $400 million in ransom payments for four Americans detained in Tehran — seven months after the fact — we were never informed about the cash transfers. And Obama never offered any legal justification or accounting for the billions he transferred. Nor did Obama ever explain the fiscal calculation of tacking on an extra $1.3 billion in interest payments. The president, in fact, risibly claimed that the agreement had saved “billions of dollars.”
I wish Trump hadn’t used his address on Iran to score points against Obama. But when it comes to Iran (and not just Iran) the points are there to be scored in abundance.