Paul Ryan Calls on Obama to Deny Iran Access to Dollar, Financial System

After Tehran appeals to U.S. and EU for access to the global financial system, Speaker of House of Representatives urges Obama to rule out sanctions workaround.

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., joined by the House GOP leadership, talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 22, 2016.
House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., joined by the House GOP leadership, talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 22, 2016. J. Scott Applewhite, AP

REUTERS - Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, urged President Barack Obama on Monday to "definitively" rule out any sanctions workaround that might provide Iran direct or indirect access to the U.S. financial system or dollar.

"Instead of helping the regime get richer, the administration should hold it accountable for its continued ballistic missile tests, egregious human rights violations and support for terrorism," the Republican congressional leader said in his strongest statement yet on the issue. 

U.S. lawmakers, mostly Republicans who opposed last year's Iran nuclear deal, have expressed deep concern about recent reports that the administration might let Iran use the dollar in some business transactions. 

The matter has attracted international attention. Tehran has appealed to the United States and European Union to help it access the global financial system. 

Despite the easing of sanctions under a nuclear pact announced in July, Iran's hopes of rapidly ending its economic isolation have been complicated as European banks in particular fear falling afoul of the many other restrictions imposed by Washington that remain in force. 

Ryan said he was concerned there were "at least four workarounds" that would allow Iran access to the U.S. currency, including dollar-denominated transactions, dollar-clearing, dollar-based conversions and dollar-related foreign currency transactions. 

The Obama administration has denied any plans to allow Iran access to the U.S. financial system or the use of the dollar, but several members of Congress insist that they are getting mixed signals on the issue. 

Some lawmakers have introduced legislation that would prohibit Obama from issuing any license for conducting an offshore U.S. dollar clearing system for Iranian transactions or providing any such system with U.S. dollars. 

They also want to impose secondary sanctions on any financial institution found to be participating in any offshore dollar clearing system with Iran. 

Iran is a particularly potent issue this year, when Americans will pick a new president, and every member of the House and one-third of senators are up for re-election. 

The three remaining Republican presidential candidates have all vowed to tear up or back away from the nuclear deal, which Obama administration officials say would be a calamitous move.