WASHINGTON - Top US officials revived talk on Thursday of sanctioning Iran's central bank but made clear they would only seek to do so in a carefully calibrated way so as not to roil oil markets or harm US allies.
The position, laid out by senior US State and Treasury Department
officials, set up a clash with US senators who favor requiring sanctions
on foreign financial institutions that do business with Iran's central
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"We are committed to taking action against the CBI (Central Bank of
Iran) to freeze its assets, to work with our allies to have them take a
similar action, and to work with our allies to encourage them to take
the steps that they have already indicated a willingness to consider,
which is to ramp down their involvement with the CBI and their purchases
of Iranian oil," Under Secretary of Treasury for Terrorism and
Financial Intelligence David Cohen told US lawmakers.
The United States already bars its own banks from dealing with the
central bank of Iran, so US sanctions would operate by dissuading
other foreign banks from doing so, chiefly with the threat of cutting
them off from the US financial system.
On Nov. 21, the United States, Britain and Canada announced new
sanctions on Iran's energy and financial sectors, but the Obama
administration stopped short of targeting Iran's central bank, a step
that US officials said could send oil prices skyrocketing and
jeopardized global economic recovery.
"We are already looking forward to what comes next. Iran's greatest
economic resource is clearly its oil exports. Sales of crude oil line
the regime's pockets, sustain its human rights abuses, and feed its
nuclear ambitions like no other sector of the Iranian economy," US
Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said in testimony before a US
"The Obama administration strongly supports increasing the pressure on
Iran, and that includes properly designed and targeted sanctions against
the central bank of Iran, appropriately timed as part of a carefully
phased and sustainable policy towards bringing about Iranian compliance
with its obligations," she added.