Good Thing Obama Kept that Iraq AUMF Lying Around

Remember how both Congress and the Administration refused to repeal the Iraq AUMF?

Maybe they wanted to have it to hang over Nuri al-Maliki’s head for the time when Iraqis were discovered helping Iran evade sanctions? The NYT reports that Elaf Islamic Bank–which Obama called out last month–is just one of a number of Iraqi institutions helping Iran bust our sanctions.

The little-known bank singled out by the United States, the Elaf Islamic Bank, is only part of a network of financial institutions and oil-smuggling operations that, according to current and former American and Iraqi government officials and experts on the Iraqi banking sector, has provided Iran with a crucial flow of dollars at a time when sanctions are squeezing its economy.


In announcing that he was “cutting off” Elaf Islamic Bank, Mr. Obama said it had “facilitated transactions worth millions of dollars on behalf of Iranian banks that are subject to sanctions for their links to Iran’s illicit proliferation activities.”


Iraqi banking experts said last week that the bank was still allowed to participate in the Iraq Central Bank’s daily auction at which commercial banks can sell Iraqi dinars and buy United States dollars. These auctions are a crucial pathway for Iranian access to the international financial system.

It’s an interesting predicament for the Administration. At the same time as they’re systematically taking out Iran’s allies and/or implicating them as expansively as they dare, they’re in a bit of a pickle with Iran’s closest geographic ally, the one with the biggest oil reserves.

Which may explain why James Risen (with Duraid Adnan) is reporting this story. Sure, he has written some of the key financial flow stories in the last decade. But he’s not exactly in good grace with this–or any recent–Administration. And the whole story reads like one that the Administration–which hasn’t found a Syrian or Lebanese insinuation they wouldn’t magnifiy–doesn’t want reported.

The Obama administration is not eager for a public showdown with the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki over Iran just eight months after the last American troops withdrew from Baghdad.

That sheepish tone continues through the rest of the article.

Consider. The one country were Obama can’t engage in the same kind of hardass approaches as he has elsewhere (at least not before the election) is helping Iran to flout sanctions. Obama can’t admit the truth–that Iran won the Iraq War. If he does, the neocons will accuse him of withdrawing prematurely. If he takes a hard stance, I might no longer be the one person talking about the extant AUMF.

And yet Iraq seems to be a key hole in the sanctions.

10 replies
  1. Heron says:

    Haven’t a handful of US and Euro banks gotten busted for helping Iran skirt those sanctions over the last year? I can see why the Obama admin wouldn’t want to get into a discussion about Iraq helping Iran skirt the sanctions, but I’d imagine they want to face an international discussion about how the very same pool of finance guys they so love to pull admin officials out of has been doing the same thing for years now even less. Maybe I’m getting a bit too conspiratorial, but could one of the reasons Obama singled out this Iraqi bank be because they were competing with the Western banking cartels for Iran’s business?

  2. MadDog says:

    An interesting article! There was this WSJ blog piece from 2 days ago that I suspect the Obama Administration didn’t want to see surface either:

    U.S. Boosts Trade to Iran, Despite Sanction

    “…The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday morning that U.S. exports to Iran were increasing (5 page PDF) despite mounting enmity between both sides, while European Union exports to Tehran were falling…


    …While some European cereal traders say they can’t find banks to issue letters of credit for Iran, the U.S. this year restarted wheat exports to the Islamic Republic after a two-year gap…

    …In April, Philip Morris International Inc. obtained a specific licence from the U.S. Treasury, “to sell cigarettes to customers for import into Iran,” a spokesman for the company said, although it has yet to make use of the authorization.

    But expect no miracle to explain why Iranians may be allowed to buy Marlboros but not drive the new Peugeot in the future. To put it simply: when it comes to pleading its case with decision-makers, Corporate America does it better.

    Mr. Burton also said U.S. companies benefit from well established channels in Washington to plead for sanctions exemptions, while their European peers, “don’t have the same mechanism to lobby the EU bureaucracy…”

  3. Frank33 says:

    What the Frack!

    Iraqi fuel oil, acquired by smuggling operations with close connections to political leaders at extremely low prices with the help of government subsidies, is being smuggled from Iraq through Kurdistan and into Iran. From Iran it is smuggled once again, with some going to Afghanistan, where the cheap fuel is resold at a large profit. American and Iraqi oil experts say they believe that at least some Iranian oil is finding its way to Iraqi ports for export

    Irony x 2.

    Q: Who is paying for fuel oil in the Afghan Quagmire?

    A: The US Military who needs lots and lots of gas to feed the war machine.

    That is why I have no money. My taxes are paying for a quagmire and also paying for “black market” Iraki Oil, protected by corrupt government officials.

    But I think and hope American Exceptionalism prevails, and maybe a few corrupt American officials are getting some of the lucrative profits.

  4. What Constitution says:

    @Frank33: Perhaps a decent place to recall the recent US military report documenting that the US was spending $20.2 Billion per year to air condition the troops in Afghanistan and Iraq (with the lion’s share of that going for fuel oil and its transportation) to run the a/c power generators. Granted, those numbers were derived from troop numbers something like two years old, though it seems safe to assume those numbers aren’t zero now, either. But it is at least reassuring to know that we are helping to get cash back into Iran so they can afford to buy our Marlboros.

  5. P J Evans says:

    I figure if sanctions/embargos haven’t worked after six months or a year, they aren’t going to work at all, and their proponents should give up and try actual diplomacy instead.

  6. Skilly says:

    Besides the Marcy and BMAZ, Does anyone do more Investigative journalism than James Risen? I love the way that guy gets right into the middle of stuff and kicks open the doors. If he were not working for the NYT, I think he might be accused of being a dirty hippie blogger.

  7. Frank33 says:


    I must disagree. Bmaz does not do investigative journalism. Actually, he does with his trash talk sports Posts which are quite good, except the one about Penn State.

    For some reason Bmaz has decided to catapult propaganda from the Secret Government, rather than investigate the Secret Government. First he slandered Bradley Manning. For some reason Julian Assange brings out the beast in Bmaz. And here is a real time defense of US Government COINTELPRO against Assange.

    bmaz ‏@bmaz
    @emptywheel Yes. Again, though, that is not really germane to valid on its face legal process from Sweden on rape allegations.

    bmaz ‏@bmaz
    So Assange is going to grace the world and address common minions from the balcony like Evita Peron? #CircusSideshow

    bmaz ‏@bmaz
    @iwelsh …shut up and face the rape allegations.

    bmaz ‏@bmaz
    @iwelsh That is a completely disingenuous sham position because under multiple treaties+compacts Sweden cant make promise w/o US consent.

    bmaz ‏@bmaz
    @iwelsh So, do all international criminals+fugitives get this novel excuse, or just the Great Assange? A law for only one is a law for none
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  8. Frank33 says:

    So Assange is going to grace the world and address common minions from the balcony like Evita Peron?

    The meme of Julian Assagne being compared to dictator Evita Peron, or perhaps Madonna, goes viral. But don’t cry for me Argentina, and Assange versus the neo-cons is epic. Yet Assange is no Evita. This meme is totally unfair. He has tortured no one and sent no killer drones anywhere.

    Assange is not a perfect insurgent against the One Percent, but who is perfect?

    Julian Assange looked serene defiant today after he gave a speech on a balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy, in a move which drew comparisons to Evita Peron.

  9. Bob Schacht says:

    Thanks for reminding us about the damned AUMF which, aside from secret presidential directives that you have written about, have been the root of many of the Constitutional excesses we have seen in the past 10 years.

    Bob in AZ

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