Iranian Flag (R)_311.
(photo credit: Reuters)
David S. Cohen, the US Treasury department’s under secretary for terrorism and
financial intelligence, took a whirlwind tour last week of Paris, London, Berlin
and Rome in an effort to convince Europe to ratchet up the pressure on
The Iranian government’s plot to murder the Saudi ambassador in a
high-end Washington restaurant, which could have caused the deaths of many
Americans, has added fresh urgency to the next round of Iran
The Obama administration might target the Central Bank of Iran
(CBI), Cohen told Reuters.
“Iran needs to be held accountable for this
plot,” he said. “We are going to continue to look at those financial
institutions that are involved with proliferation activity for Iran, and
continue to try to isolate them from the international financial
The US government will undoubtedly face an uphill mission to
persuade the European Union’s 27 member states to turn the financial screws on
the Central Bank. Take the example of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, which may
control as much as 75 percent of Iran's economy and oversees Tehran’s illicit
nuclear program. While the Bush administration sanctioned the IRGC in 2007 as a
“global terrorist” entity, the EU, particularly Germany, has vehemently resisted
penalizing the IRGC.
Dr. Wahied Wahdat-Hagh, an expert on Iran’s terror
operations and a senior fellow at the Brusselsbased European Foundation for
Democracy, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that “all state banks are involved
with the nuclear business” in Iran. There “are no independent banks in Iran,” he
Sanctioned Iranian banks “fall under the Central Bank,” Wahdat-
Hagh added. “The CBI cannot be clean when its children are not,” he
Europe and the United States have sanctioned a number of Iran’s
banks — Melli, EIH and Saderat – because of their immersion in its nuclear
weapons and ballistic missile programs.
Given Europe’s addiction to
Iranian trade, and the crucial financial role of the Central Bank of Iran in
conducting energy and non-oil transactions for the EU, the Obama administration
will have to strongly twist Europe’s economic arms. The EU’s members’ trade with
Iran exceeded 25 billion euros in 2010, making the EU as a whole Iran’s most
important trade partner.
Roughly 90 percent of Europe’s imports from Iran
are energyrelated, and payments for Iranian crude oil take place through the
The New York Times in 2007 reported on Nasrin Amirsedghi, a
German-Iranian author and public intellectual, who was one of the first of a
group of critics in the Federal Republic to expose how Germany’s business ties
with Tehran are propping up its regime.
“The largest artery of the IRGC
is Iran’s Central Bank,” Amirsedghi wrote in an e-mail to the Post on Sunday.
“From day to day the financial power of the IRGC is enormously strengthened.
Aside from the domestic and foreign terror conducted through this organization,
according to intelligence information, Iran is experimenting with nuclear
She said that “to stop the weapons program and the
terror ambitions of Iran, you have to cut the artery. That can only happen
through a ban of CBI’s financial transactions. Then we win twofold: The end of
Islamic terrorism and the collapse of the regime.
Without these all of
the sanctions up until now will be ineffective.”
All this explains why
The Wall Street Journal wrote that “many US officials view the imposition of
sanctions on Iran’s central bank, Bank Markazi, as the ‘nuclear option’ in its
financial war against Tehran, with the potential to freeze Iran out of the
global monetary system.”
The sanctions writing is plainly on the wall in
Washington, and Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi sensed earlier this
month that a shot of economic pain is on its way. “Iran is facing the toughest
political and economic sanctions in the past 32 years,” said Salehi.
influential US senator and Iran expert Mark Kirk (R-Illinois) told Foreign
Policy’s website The Cable that “What the administration should do is prepare to
move against Bank Markazi in response to the bomb plot.”
problem remains Europe’s economic ties with Iran.
The EU refuses to
sanction the IRGC. Can the US influence a dramatic change in the EU’s posture
toward the IRGC and the Central Bank of Iran? Wahdat-Hagh said the IRGC is
involved in terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq and against NATO troops. He cited
the running list of IRGC attacks against Kurdish dissidents in Berlin and
Vienna, Argentineans, Israelis and Americans, and Western troops in the
Afghanistan and Iraqi war theaters.
Wahdat-Hagh sees the flourishing
trade relations between Europe and the Islamic Republic as blocking meaningful
and robust sanctions targeting Iran’s core financial interests.
advocates of pulling the plug on Iran’s financial oxygen to the IRGC understand
the conflict being waged by Iran against the West. The question is, will Europe
and the Obama administration flex their financial muscles and shut down Iran’s
terror lifeblood, the IRGC and the Central Bank of Iran?