currency exchange dealer, Iran_311.
(photo credit: Reuters)
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.
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US Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton and 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
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.
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
“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
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
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.JPost.com staff contributed to this report