Trump at the G-7, Again, Spreads False Story About Obama and the Iran Nuclear Deal

No, there was no $150 billion gift from the U.S. treasury or other countries to Iran

French President Emmanuel Macron and President Donald Trump participate in the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France, August 25, 2019.
Andrew Harnik/AP

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday assailed the Obama administration for being hoodwinked by Iran, making his case with a frequently told and false story about the U.S. giving billions of dollars to Tehran.

In an extended news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron and other remarks at the G-7 summit, Trump also asserted inaccurately that the U.S. has the cleanest air, as well as energy riches that only he brought to life. Many countries outperform the U.S. on measures of air quality. Energy production surged under President Barack Obama.

Here’s a look at Trump’s statement and how it compares with the facts:

TRUMP on Iran: “We gave them $150 billion and $1.8 billion and we got nothing. ... Look at what they did to John Kerry and to President Obama. Look what happened, where they’re bringing planeloads of cash, planeloads, big planes, 757s, Boeing 757s coming in loaded up with cash. What kind of a deal is that?” — news conference with Macron.

THE FACTS: It’s the kind of deal that did not actually take place.

When Iran signed the multinational deal to restrain its nuclear development in return for being freed from sanctions, it regained access to its own assets, which had been frozen abroad. There was no $150 billion gift from the U.S. treasury or other countries. Iran was allowed to get its money back.

The $1.8 billion refers to a separate matter, also misstated by the president going back to before the 2016 election.

A payout of roughly that amount did come from the U.S. treasury. It was to pay an old IOU.

In the 1970s, Iran paid the U.S. $400 million for military equipment that was never delivered because the government was overthrown and diplomatic relations ruptured. After the nuclear deal, the U.S. and Iran announced they had settled the matter, with the U.S. agreeing to pay the $400 million principal along with about $1.3 billion in interest.

The $400 million was paid in cash and flown to Tehran on a cargo plane. The arrangement provided for the interest to be paid later.

In Trump’s telling, one cargo plane with $400 million that was owed to Iran has become “big planes, 757s, Boeing 757s,” loaded with a $1.8 billion giveaway.