Clinton briefs Netanyahu on new Iran sanctions

Washington to team up with UK, Canada in announcing new sanctions on Tehran's financial sector.

By REBECCA ANNA STOIL, JERSUALEM POST CORRESPONDEN
November 21, 2011 23:16
4 minute read.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

hillary clinton_311 reuters. (photo credit: REUTERS/Tony Gentile)

 
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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton phoned Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Monday evening to brief him on the sanctions the US decided to level against Iran.

According to a statement put out by the Prime Minister's Office, Netanyahu said, "sanctions like these make clear to the Iranians that there will be a high price if they continue with their nuclear program."


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Despite American insistence that it is working together with UN Security Council members and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) leaders to formulate a united front against Iran, Washington was expected to team up with London and Ottawa to announce tough new measures Monday targeting Tehran's financial sector.

Clinton and US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner were expected to announce Monday afternoon a series of new sanctions against Tehran, focusing on Iran's money-raising activities. The sanctions will place Iran's Central Bank between the cross-hairs, building on already-existing American restrictions against doing business with Tehran, and also target companies that support Iranian petrochemical and nuclear initiatives.

Geithner was expected to declare the Central Bank of Iran to be a “primary money laundering concern,” a step short of official sanctions that would require the United States to cut off access to any foreign institution that does business with the bank. The more drastic step would have presented serious problems for US business if states such as China and Russia fail, as they are expected, to cut off ties with Tehran. The new category would simply warn off foreign governments and companies from dealing with Iranian institutions.

The United Kingdom started off the trans-Atlantic sanctions announcements earlier Monday when the British government announced their decision to terminate all dealings with the Central Bank of Iran, a decision that covers all Iranian banks, branches and subsidiaries.

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This measure will protect the UK financial sector from being unknowingly used by Iranian banks for proliferation related transactions,” said George Osborne, Britain’s treasury chief. Iran's nuclear activities "pose a significant risk to the national interests of the UK and countries across the region."

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) was quick to respond to England's announcement.

“England’s bold initiative to single out the Central Bank of Iran is a much-needed punitive measure to press Iran to stop its nuclear weapons program,” said AJC Executive David Harris. “We hope other countries will quickly follow the British lead to enhance the measure’s effectiveness. Iran’s defiance of the international will must be countered with the strongest possible coordinated efforts to defeat this clear threat to global security.”

“Tightening the noose around Iran’s economy is essential to ending Iran’s nuclear program, though ultimately full impact requires the cooperation of China, Russia and other countries that mistakenly continue to do business as usual with Iran,” said Harris.

Since the November 8 publication of the IAEA's report on Iran, the US has been pushing for international cooperation in policing Tehran's nuclear production initiatives. Last week's meeting of the nuclear watchdog organization's Board of Governors yielded a statement calling on Iran to open itself to inspectors, but stopped short of major international steps against Tehran's march toward nuclear armament.

Iranian representatives were conspicuously absent from a two-day meeting in Vienna held to discuss nuclear non-proliferation in the Middle East. In the shadow of the recent report slamming Iran's nuclear aspirations, the IAEA hosted representatives of a number of Middle Eastern states, including Israel, for a discussion on creating a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the area.

There are already nuclear-weapon-free zones in South America, Africa, the South Pacific and parts of Asia.

In addition to the nuclear face-off and the terror plot targeting the Saudi ambassador to Washington, it looked Monday as though there was yet another factor in Washington's growing tensions with Iran. The Washington Post revealed that Iran was suspected of having provided former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi with hundreds of artillery shells filled with “highly toxic mustard agent.” These shells, discovered in recent sweeps of Libya by anti-Gadaffi forces, were beyond the purview of the minimal amounts of chemical agents that the US knew that Gaddafi held.

The Washington Post article quoted a senior US official as saying that the US “was pretty sure” that the shells were custom-designed and produced in Iran for Libya.

Washington is also concerned that more than a dozen undercover agents working for the CIA who were caught in both Iran and Lebanon will be or already have been executed, ABC News quoted US officials as saying on Monday.

According to the report, the agents were paid informants, hired by the CIA to spy on Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

"Many risks lead to wins, but some result in occasional setbacks," ABC quoted an official as saying. The arrests occurred over the past six months, he added.

The officials gave credit to Iran and Hezbollah for uncovering the two espionage rings, but say sloppy CIA "tradecraft" was also partly to blame for the discovery of the networks.

"We were lazy and the CIA is now flying blind against Hezbollah," a former official was quoted as saying.

Herb Keinon and JPost.com staff contributed to this report

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