US not backing off as Iran sanctions bite

Top US Administration official David Cohen believes Tehran taking notice of sanctions in place over its nuclear program.

April 6, 2012 04:12
3 minute read.
Iranian missiles displayed during war exhibition

Iranian missile with flag 370 R. (photo credit: REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl)


Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief


The Obama administration's man in charge of squeezing Tehran over its nuclear program is unapologetic for the difficulties faced by banks in their dealings with Iran since the US tightened sanctions against the country.

Companies that trade with Iran are struggling to get paid and the biggest Asian countries are scrambling to work around US sanctions that aim to deprive Tehran of revenue needed to develop its nuclear program. "I don't feel apologetic about it because that is the consequence of these banks in Iran willingly facilitating transactions for Iran's nuclear programs," said David Cohen, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the US Treasury Department.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.

"If they are going to do that, they shouldn't be accessible to the international financial system. They shouldn't be financial institutions that any reputable bank wants to deal with," Cohen said in an interview.

The pressure has forced Iran to listen to US demands, he said. "Do we think we have the attention of the leadership on their end? We have it like never before," he added.

Click here for full Jpost coverage of the Iranian threat

Cohen's comments were a strong display of administration confidence in the measures against Iran, even as their effects have rippled through the marketplace faster than many had expected.

J.P. Morgan warned on Thursday of an acceleration of Iranian oil cutbacks, predicting Iranian supplies could be slashed by one million barrels a day in the first of the year. Since January, the price of oil has shot up nearly 15 percent.

The White House has not yet stated its position on proposed new bipartisan Iran sanctions legislation in the United States that would target Iran's main oil and tanker companies, as well as tighten up other loopholes. Mindful of the potential to cause more uncertainty over supply and push world oil prices higher, some senators are seeking amendments to the new sanctions package to assure insurers of allowed oil shipments that they will not be stung by sanctions. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid so far has said he does not want to allow the package to be amended.


Not a hermetic seal

US entities have been prohibited from working with Iran for years. But what Washington and its allies see as signs that Iran is closer to getting atomic weapons and unleashing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East have triggered Washington to increase the heat on the country. Tehran says its nuclear activities are peaceful.

Over the past three months, Cohen and other top Obama administration officials convinced Europe to impose similar sanctions on Iran's main recipient of oil payments, the Central Bank of Iran. The administration, as well, has been twisting arms trying to get Iran's biggest oil buyers, China, India, Japan and South Korea, to stop relying on Iranian crude.

The current US sanctions allow President Barack Obama to block foreign financial firms from US markets if they continue to deal with Iran's central bank starting June 28. However, if countries manage to reduce their Iranian oil imports, they can win exemptions from the US law so that their banks are not barred from the US financial system.

Despite the looming sanction deadlines, countries and companies have managed to do some business with Iran - a provision that the Obama administration defends.

"I don't think the measure of an effective sanctions program is that it creates a hermetic seal through which nothing permeates," said Cohen. "The fact that they are still selling some oil, I would not chalk that up to a failure of the sanctions program," he said.

Cohen said the question should be whether Iran was able to make use of the revenue that it earns from its oil sales rather than whether it was profiting from crude exports.

"It is increasingly difficult for Iran to make use of, or to get access to the funds that it is earning from its oil sales," he said.

Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>

Related Content

Bushehr nuclear Iranian
August 5, 2014
Iran and the bomb: The future of negotiations