Defense & National Security

Some Say Iran Could Circumvent Sanctions in New Legislation

Some Say Iran Could Circumvent Sanctions in New Legislation

During his speech at the VFW convention in Reno, Nev., earlier this month, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney let fly some of his harshest rhetoric toward the Iranian regime and the Obama administration’s handling of its nuclear threat.

Saying the years since 2008 had only brought that threat closer, he called for a suspension of all uranium enrichment activities in Iran.

“I will use any means necessary to protect ourselves and the region and to prevent the worst from happening while there’s still time,” he said. “The surest path to danger is always weakness and indecision. In the end, it’s always resolve that moves events in our direction.”

Last week, a new package of economic sanctions on the hostile nation received final approval from Congress, augmented by an executive order from President Barack Obama expanding their scope. While lawmakers say they’re hopeful that the bipartisan bill will further hobble the Iranian economy, others worry the sanctions won’t go far enough, and fear spotty enforcement may undermine America’s threat posture.

Among other measures, the new package adds sanctions against those who work with natural gas, petrochemicals, and petroleum in Iran; those who supply oil tankers to the country or insure the National Iranian Tanker Co.; those who assist and support Iran’s violent and allegedly terrorist Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps; and human rights violators in Iran and Syria. The bill also targets a broad number of Iranian financial institutions and activities and declares Iran’s energy sector a “zone of proliferation concern.”

The Wall Street Journal reported in July that all 20 of the countries that trade most with Iran have received waivers from the U.S. exempting them from the full force of the sanctions on the condition that they reduce oil imports. Obama’s executive order, published July 31 in what may be a response to Romney’s allegations of soft-pedaling on Iran, would not lift any of the current waivers.

A spokesman for the organization United Against Nuclear Iran, Nathan Carleton, told Human Events he was glad to see the bill passed, but disappointed that more financial loopholes, such as transactions through the international banking network SWIFT, were not definitively closed.

Concerns about “loopholes”

“The bill doesn’t impose an economic blockade of the regime, and now is a perfect time for that,” Carleton said. “(The sanctions are) not enough. They won’t force the regime’s hand, because they still leave loopholes the regime can exploit.”

In late July, Foundation for the Defense of Democracies executive director Mark Dubowitz co-authored a Wall Street Journal Editorial pushing for U.S. sanctions on all known Iranian financial institutions, and full disclosure from foreign financial institutions of all their dealings with the country.

“…illicit finances are like water: they seep through the cracks,” Dubowitz and co-author Jonathan Schanzer, FDD’s vice president for research, wrote.

Last week, Dubowitz told Human Events the sanctions package would close some loopholes, though it was unclear how effective the legislation would be at slowing or curtailing Iranian nuclear activities.

While State Department special adviser Robert Einhorn has told reporters Iran is losing $9 billion in oil revenue every quarter with the sanctions already on the books, Dubowitz said there is no evidence that the measures have slowed Iran’s proliferation activities.

As Obama and Romney endeavor to out-posture each other with regard to Iran, Dubowitz said that sanctions were indeed as much about character and authority as about the words on the books.

“When is comes to presidential determination, it’s tone, it’s about personality, and it’s about the projection of power,” Dubowitz said. “It’s about striking fear into the heart of one man: Iran’s supreme leader. If he doesn’t fear American presidents, then he will not make the concessions that are needed.”

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