Int'l community more willing to pressure Iran

Stuart Levey: EU sanctions will likely target Iranian energy sector.

July 11, 2010 01:58
2 minute read.
The members of the U.N. Security Council vote on s

Iran sanctions 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)


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WASHINGTON – America’s international partners are now more willing to resort to sanctions and otherwise pressure Iran than in the past, a top US Treasury official has told The Jerusalem Post.

“There’s a much wider understanding that we now need to turn to pressure and that everyone needs to do it together to be effective,” said Stuart Levey, the US Treasury under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, before his trip to Europe this past week to coordinate sanctions.

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His visit came following days after US President Barak Obama signed sweeping unilateral sanctions affecting foreign companies doing business with Iran. While those businesses’ home countries have long objected to such a US move, Levey’s comments suggested that they were more accepting of the measure given international frustration with Iran.

US administrations in the past have resisted exercising unilateral sanctions – narrower legislation passed in the 1990s was almost never utilized by the executive branch – out of the concern that it could alienate overseas partners.

Levey’s trip to Berlin, Paris and Brussels indicated a greater willingness on the part of the Obama administration to make use of the expanded authorities granted in the new law.

While the US sanctions seek to bar Iranian imports of refined petroleum, a step Europeans governments are all but certain not to take themselves, there are expected to be large areas of agreement between the US and EU.

“In contrast with the American legislation, EU sanctions will not likely go after the supply of gasoline, but they will target key areas in the Iranian energy sector, including investment and the transfer of critical European know-how on which the Iranian oil and natural sectors are highly dependent,” said one source familiar with the issue.

Though the US sanctions go beyond the UN Security Council resolution, Levey said the “quite powerful” package of financial provisions “really is consistent with what the UN Security Council has said and what the EU is already talking about.”

Sanctions expert Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies explained that by emphasizing the “nexus between the Iranian energy sector and proliferation,” the preamble to the UN resolution “provides the political predicate for Europe to roll out its own tough energy-related sanctions.”

The political context is also significant for the Obama administration as it balances maintaining international partnership on sanctions with satisfying the demands of a domestic constituency expecting strong implementation of the new unilateral legislation.

“The Obama administration is serious about sanctions enforcement and Congress is serious about making sure that the administration remains serious about sanctions enforcement,” Dubowitz said.

“The Obama administration’s preference is to implement sanctions in a comprehensive, multilateral and collaborative way in close consultation with its allies in Europe,” he said.

But he stressed, “In the absence of meaningful sanctions from US allies, the administration will face intense political pressure to implement US unilateral sanctions.”

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