Analysis: US to turn non-military screws on Iran

Anti-Iranian regime penalties enter new phase with focus on Central Bank.

By JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
December 11, 2011 04:15
2 minute read.
Woman walks past anti Iran graffiti

woman walks past anti Iran graffiti 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/ Hamad I Mohammed)

WASHINGTON – The growing tendency toward targeting the Islamic Republic with powerful non-military sanctions moved beyond the idea stage on Thursday among Washington’s politicians and Iran experts.

The Friday edition of The Washington Times neatly captured the new spike in proposed high-intensity penalties, which include paralyzing Iran’s Central Bank and its energy sector, with its headline: Democrat resists diluting Iran sanctions.

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Rep. Howard Berman of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said, “I will not – and Congress should not – give in to entreaties from the administration or elsewhere to dilute our approach to sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran’s petroleum transactions.”

A two-day forum sponsored by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies featured a bipartisan group of lawmakers seeking to force Tehran to abandon work on nuclear weapons, as well as its domestic and foreign terror operations. The writer of this analysis is a research fellow at the foundation and attended the forum event on “Ideology, Power and Alliances in a Changing Middle East.”

Congressional efforts to paralyze the Central Bank of Iran coupled with restrictions on the import of Iranian crude oil might very well be the last non-military sanctions package. A House vote on sanctions is slated for this week.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) said at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies event that there is” no choice but to impose the most robust sanctions possible.”

He along with Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Illinois) crafted the Senate anti-Iran regime bill, which passed last week by a 100 to 0 vote, and calls for the Central Bank to be sanctioned.

According to Menendez, “tightening the screws on Iran” protects Israel and stability in the region.

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-New York), who has sponsored a resolution recognizing Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel, spoke at the event about his efforts to convince his European Union counterparts 12 years ago that the Iranian threat is not merely a problem of the US and Israel but a global security danger. R. James Woolsey, chairman of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former director of US central intelligence, said within the context of a possible military strike on Iran’s nuclear installations that “I do not think it is Israel’s duty, it is ours.”

All of the tough sanctions action and saber-rattling signify that Iran-strategy has entered a new phase in the United States. The Americans might be in the end-stage of their tactical-sanctions pressure- point plan. Woolsey and other commentators in Washington have turned the corner on what it might take to stop Tehran’s quest to go nuclear. They are wavering between obliterating Iran’s economy with financial embargoes and military strikes to dissolve its nuclear facilities.

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