Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Bush administration officials yesterday told lawmakers that U.S. sanctions against Iran, North Korea and other countries with ties to weapons of mass destruction and terrorism have had significant results.

Senior Treasury and State department officials told a joint subcommittee hearing that the administration’s sanctions have been a useful tool in efforts to get these regimes to change their behavior, although House lawmakers criticized the administration’s approach.

The United States has instituted a number of economic actions to help stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Treasury Department officials said.

Daniel Glaser, deputy assistant secretary for terrorist financing and financial crimes, and Adam J. Szubin, director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control, noted the designation in January of Bank Sepah, Iran’s fifth-largest state-owned financial institution, as supporting Iranian efforts to develop missiles capable of carrying weapons of mass destruction.

That move, combined with subsequent U.N. sanctions, “has had a significant impact,” they said in a joint statement.

“By cutting off Sepah from the U.S. and the international financial system, we have commercially isolated Bank Sepah and may have made it more difficult for Iran to finance some of its proliferation-related activities,” they said.

Noting actions the administration has taken to eliminate support for international terrorism, including last year’s cutoff of Bank Saderat Iran from the U.S. financial system, the officials said companies worldwide “have begun to re-evaluate their business relationships” with Iran, adding that many financial institutions have scaled back or ended their Iran-related business.

Rep. Brad Sherman, California Democrat, criticized the administration for not taking action under the Iran Sanctions Act.

That law requires imposing sanctions on foreign companies that invest more than $20 million in one year in Iran’s energy sector.

Mr. Sherman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs terrorism, nonproliferation and trade subcommittee, included a list of foreign companies that have invested millions or more than $1 billion in Iranian energy.

Although the administration may say the deals may not go through or the full extent of the investments will not be realized, “it strains credulity to say that no single $20 million investment has occurred in Iran in the past decade driving any calendar year,” he said.

“The fact of the matter is that the State Department refuses to find evidence of the investments that would trigger the act because they do not want to find evidence of such investments.”

The panel was a joint hearing of the Foreign Affairs terrorism, nonproliferation and trade subcommittee and the House Financial Services domestic and international monetary policy, trade and technology subcommittee.

Patricia McNerney, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, said the administration’s financial actions “now have been applied with considerable success against the proliferation activities of North Korea, Syria and Iran.”

“As a result of the loss of access to many financial institutions, proliferators and the illicit actors supporting them have been forced to wage an aggressive campaign to revise their financial networks,” she said.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Paul Simons pointed to Libya’s giving up on its nuclear ambitions and ending support for international terrorism, as well as reduction in the international trade in “conflict diamonds” as examples of successful multilateral sanctions.

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