WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump wrongly dismissed the continuing threat of the Islamic State group and spread a false tale of the U.S. paying out billions of dollars to Iran as part of the multinational deal freezing its nuclear program in an address Wednesday that fell short on facts.
TRUMP: “Three months ago, after destroying 100% of ISIS and its territorial caliphate …”
THE FACTS: His claim of a 100% defeat is misleading as the Islamic State still poses a threat.
IS was defeated in Iraq in 2017, then lost the last of its land holdings in Syria in March, marking the end of the extremists’ self-declared caliphate.
Still, extremist sleeper cells have continued to launch attacks in Iraq and Syria and are believed to be responsible for targeted killings against local officials and members of the Syrian Democratic Forces.
As recently as this week, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the fight against ISIS in Syria was continuing.
IS controlled large swaths of northern and eastern Syria, where it declared a caliphate in 2014, along with large parts of neighboring Iraq.
U.N. experts warned in August that IS leaders are aiming to consolidate and create conditions for an “eventual resurgence in its Iraqi and Syrian heartlands.”
TRUMP: “Iran’s hostility substantially increased after the foolish Iran nuclear deal was signed in 2013. And they were given $150 billion, not to mention $1.8 billion in cash.”
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. Iran was allowed to get its money back. The deal actually was signed in 2015, after a 2013 preliminary agreement. Trump has taken the U.S. out of it.
The $1.8 billion is a separate matter. 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, which gave rise to Trump’s previous dramatic accounts of money stuffed in barrels or boxes and delivered in the dead of night. The arrangement provided for the interest to be paid later, not crammed into containers.