US: Iran sanctions starting to bite

Canceled and delayed fossil fuel deals alone worth $50-60b.

UNSC vote on Iran sanctions (photo credit: Associated Press)
UNSC vote on Iran sanctions
(photo credit: Associated Press)
WASHINGTON – New sanctions regimes against Iran are already bearing fruit, senior US officials said Thursday, though they acknowledged the need to press countries in the Middle East, Asia and South America more forcefully.
Accordingly, top US Treasury and State Department officials are scheduled to travel to those regions in the coming weeks to push for greater sanctions there – or at the very least that these countries refrain from taking advantage of the vacuum created in Iran’s energy sector as other international sanctions take effect. China and the United Arab Emirates were places of particular concern, according to the officials.
But Robert Einhorn, US State Department special adviser for nonproliferation and arms control, and Daniel Glaser, deputy assistant Treasury secretary for terrorist financing, also testified before Congress Thursday that they were already seeing progress from new sanctions. The UN Security Council passed a resolution in June adding sanctions on Iran if it didn’t halt uranium enrichment, followed by a new US law signed at the beginning of July, EU and Canadian sanctions this past week and Australian sanctions on Thursday.
“Our efforts have yielded significant results,” said Einhorn, who pointed to $50 billion to $60b. in held up or canceled oil and gas development deals, the unwillingness of a growing list of major suppliers to provide Iran gasoline, and Iran’s trouble in accessing financial services because of the refusal of international banks to do business with it.
“I think we’re starting to see that it’s working,” Glaser agreed. He noted Iran’s difficulties in getting investments in its energy sector, with the targeted Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps itself dropping out of deals, and said, “International corporations are increasingly unwilling to do business with Iran.”
The State Department is reviewing companies that might qualify for sanctions under the new US law, compiling a list of “fewer than 10” companies that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will soon have to decide whether to label sanctionable under the new law. For those she does, the US will then have to investigate the countries, though it has some discretion about whether and how to punish them.
Several members of Congress on the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform, which held Thursday’s hearing, expressed concern that the executive branch wouldn’t be aggressive enough in enforcing sanctions, after previous sanctions laws had failed to result in any penalized companies.
But Einhorn pledged, “We’re working aggressively to implement this legislation.”
Still, Joseph Christoff, director of international affairs and trade for the Government Accountability Office, who also testified at the hearing, did point to shortcomings in the US approach.
He recalled previous sanction laws on which the US government hadn’t acted, and he said a review by his office had found that US agencies hadn’t collected information on the effect of sanctions or “established baseline information for monitoring and reporting” on sanctions.
One area where those testified agreed a good job was being done, however, involved coordination with Israel. Asked about contacts with Jerusalem over Iran sanctions, the US officials said there was intense discussion between the two countries.
Einhorn pointed to a meeting with an Israeli delegation at the State Department Thursday afternoon as a sign of “the strong relations” and “how closely we work with Israel” on Iran.