William Burns 311.
(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
WASHINGTON – Members of Congress pressed top Obama administration officials to
more aggressively enforce sanctions, including those against companies in
countries doing business with Iran, during a hearing held
Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee questioned US
State Department Under Secretary for Political Affairs William Burns and US
Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey
on why only one company – which was Iranian rather than foreign- owned – had
been sanctioned after tough new measures were put in place by Congress in July.
The law allows the US to sanction companies in other countries that do business
with Iran’s energy sector, such as those in China.
Iran: Finished loading fuel into Bushehr nuke reactor
Editor's Notes: Running out of time
“I’d like to know why
we haven’t sanctioned any of the Chinese companies engaged in clearly
sanctionable actions,” said HFAC Chairman Howard Berman
“I’m concerned that we will not be able to sustain a
robust sanctions regime if we don’t impose sanctions in an even-handed manner…
What kind of message do we send if we fail to sanction companies that are
transparently engaged in sanctionable activities?” Committee Ranking Member
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R–Florida), who is due to become chair in the next session,
charged that “since the 1990s, US and international efforts to stop the growing
Iranian threat have been half-hearted at best, with results to match. The
problem is not that a tough approach has failed, but that it has yet to be fully
tried,” since sanctions haven’t been fully implemented.
She also pointed
to China and its investment and trade with Iran, declaring, “We’ve wasted enough
time – 14 years. No more waivers, exceptions, excuses.”
Burns and Levey,
however, defended their approach and said that it’s having a positive
“We are enforcing the law rigorously and
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Already, more foreign investment has been curbed than at
any time [in the last 15 years],” Burns said. “The net result of all of the
measures that we’ve applied in recent months is substantial.”
to a lost of $50b. to $60b. in energy sector investment for Iran as well
as an 85% reduction in the amount of refined petroleum imports to
And Iran is increasingly “relegated to the margins of the
international financial system,” according to Levey.
stressed, however, that the door to diplomacy remains open and that US sanctions
policy is being conducted to an eye to having Iran return to the negotiating
The US has seen the sanctions as being effective on that score, as
Iran has agreed to meet with the US and other world powers in Geneva on December
6 and 7 for the first time in a year.
The US officials said the sanctions
policy has received widespread buy-in from other countries and that even China
has taken note of the risks in doing business with Teheran.
banks there take seriously the “reputational” concerns that come from working
with Iran, as they want to be an international economic force.
Tuesday, the US designated 10 more companies that have ties to a major Iranian
shipping line and bank.
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