The Myth of Giving Iran $150 Billion in Nuclear Deal

Money Was Already in Iranian Accounts, Simply No Longer Frozen

As the 2016 election season gets into full swing in the US, the P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran is becoming a focus, and with it the oft-repeated myth of the US having “given Iran $150 billion” as part of the deal, a claim often repeated by hawks looking to see the deal killed.

The reality is that the money and other assets belonged to Iran in the first place, and all that really happened under the nuclear deal was their unfreezing, allowing Iran to transfer the money to different banks, and spend it on infrastructure upgrades.

In the wake of the deal’s implementation, Iran moved a portion of the assets back into Iranian banks, in an effort to shore up their foreign currency reserves and curb the country’s previously excessive inflation. Most of the money remains in Western banks, however, because it’s easier to pay Western companies for their goods and services that way.

The notion, repeated by many but championed by Donald Trump in particular in recent days, is that this was somehow American money to begin with. It never was, and was never going to be, and the current situation is the default, allowing a foreign country to spend its own money, with no US interference.

For many US companies, this is going to be a bit galling, since US hostility toward Iran means many American companies are losing out on the juiciest deals to European and Asian competitors, but Iran is open for business, and that’s neither a “failure” of the Obama Administration or even a bad thing.

Iran is already shifting toward reform in elections, as the public salivates at the improvements more international trade will mean for their lives. Hostility among US politicians, then, can only be interpreted by the Iranians as spite for spite’s sake, and a threat to them being on an equal footing with the rest of the world for the first time in decades.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.