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Obama Didn’t Give Iran ‘150 Billion in Cash’

Quick Take

A viral meme distorts the facts about the Iran nuclear agreement. The deal, approved by six countries and the European Union, gave Iran access to its own frozen assets.

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As a candidate during the 2016 campaign, President Donald Trump criticized the international agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear weapons’ program — formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — that had been adopted the year before. He suggested that the U.S. had returned $150 billion to Iran as part of the deal.

That’s not true. We’ve written about this issue before. PolitiFact and the Washington Post have, too.

But Trump has repeated the claim as recently as December, when he tweeted: “The Democrats and President Obama gave Iran 150 Billion Dollars and got nothing, but they can’t give 5 Billion Dollars for National Security and a Wall?

Trump’s bogus claim now has been repeated in a meme that references the president’s declaration of a national emergency to redirect federal funds for a proposed wall on the southern border.

The meme, which has been shared 149,000 times on Facebook, mentions the recent lawsuit brought against the Trump administration by 16 states to block the national emergency. The meme says: “So, when Obama bypassed the Congress while giving Iran 150 billion in cash, how many States had sued him?

First of all, former President Barack Obama didn’t give “150 billion in cash” to Iran.

The nuclear agreement included China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union, so Obama didn’t carry out any part of it on his own. The deal did lift some sanctions, which lifted a freeze on Iran’s assets that were held largely in foreign, not U.S., banks. And, to be clear, the money that was unfrozen belonged to Iran. It had only been made inaccessible by sanctions aimed at crippling the country’s nuclear program.

Secondly, $150 billion is a high-end estimate of the total that was freed up after some sanctions were lifted. U.S. Treasury Department estimates put the number at about $50 billion in “usable liquid assets,” according to 2015 testimony from Adam Szubin, acting under secretary of treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence.

The part that the meme gets right, though, is that the deal didn’t get congressional approval. The Obama administration had maintained that the agreement wasn’t a treaty, which would have required approval by the Senate. Republicans did try to block the deal, but they weren’t able to get enough support to pass the legislation in the Senate.

However, the U.S. is now no longer part of the deal. Trump pulled out in May 2018.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on the social media network.


Trump, Donald. Ceasing U.S. Participation in the JCPOA and Taking Additional Action to Counter Iran’s Malign Influence and Deny Iran All Paths to a Nuclear Weapon. Presidential memorandum. 8 May 2018.

Farley, Robert. “Trump’s Fanciful Iran Negotiation.” FactCheck.org. 8 Jul 2016.

Szubin, Adam. Acting secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, U.S. Department of the Treasury. Written testimony for the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. 5 Aug 2015.

Trump, Donald (@realDonaldTrump). “The Democrats and President Obama gave Iran 150 Billion Dollars and got nothing, but they can’t give 5 Billion Dollars for National Security and a Wall?” Twitter. 12 Dec 2018.

Farley, Robert. “Trump Misleads on Corker.” FactCheck.org. 9 Oct 2017.