Hit­ting Tehran where it hurts

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

If the new sanc­tions im­posed on Iran’s Is­lamic Revo­lu­tion­ary Guards Corps (IRGC) by the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion are to have any mean­ing­ful, pos­i­tive ef­fect on Ira­nian be­hav­ior, they have to be seen as a first step to­ward pres­sur­ing Europe and Ja­pan to cur­tail their fi­nan­cial re­la­tion­ships with the Ira­nian regime. Al­ready con­fu­sion has emerged through leaks to The Wash­ing­ton Post and New York Times about how far the sanc­tions ac­tu­ally go.

Michael Ja­cob­son of the Wash­ing­ton In­sti­tute for Near East Pol­icy (who pre­vi­ously served as a se­nior ad­viser in the Trea­sury De­part­ment’s Of­fice of Ter­ror­ism and Fi­nan­cial Intelligence) ob­serves that The Post’s Aug. 15 ac­count re­ported that the IRGC would be hit with sanc­tions un­der Ex­ec­u­tive Or­der 13224 (E.O. 13224) — is­sued on Sept. 23, 2001, by Pres­i­dent Bush. Al­most 500 peo­ple and en­ti­ties are on this list. But ac­cord­ing to the Times, the IRGC would be listed as a For­eign Ter­ror­ist Or­ga­ni­za­tion (FTO), join­ing ap­prox­i­mately 40 other groups on that list. In a pa­per co-au­thored with Wash­ing­ton In­sti­tute scholar Pa­trick Claw­son, Mr. Ja­cob­son writes that the FTO list­ing would ap­ply only to ac­counts at fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions but not to other types of prop­erty. But the E.O. 13224 des­ig­na­tion would mean that “all as­sets of the des­ig­nated en­tity within U.S. ju­ris­dic­tion are frozen, in­clud­ing not only bank ac­counts but all other prop­erty as well.”

The IRGC has long op­er­ated as a kind of Mafia on steroids — with its own intelligence ser­vice, army, navy and fi­nan­cial em­pire in which Ira­nian of­fi­cials en­rich them­selves through shady deals and brute force. So, why has Wash­ing­ton de­cided to press ahead now against the Revo­lu­tion­ary Guard? In all like­li­hood it did so to in­crease pres­sure on com­pa­nies over­seas to stop trad­ing with and in­vest­ing in Iran. The United States has at­tempted to achieve this through the United Na­tions, but Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tions im­pos­ing sanc­tions on Iran have left the IRGC free to con­duct its busi­ness ac­tiv­i­ties, and progress on a new res­o­lu­tion has been stalled due to Rus­sian and Chi­nese will­ing­ness to run in­ter­fer­ence for Tehran. The crit­i­cal chal­lenge for U.S. pol­icy-mak­ers right now is to find a way to per­suade the Euro­peans and the Ja­panese to join us in cir­cum­vent­ing the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil.

“Per­haps th­ese gov­ern­ments, and the com­pa­nies lo­cated in them, will think twice about con­tin­u­ing to con­duct busi­ness as usual with the IRGC and Iran if they be­lieve the new U.S. des­ig­na­tion of the IRGC could en­tail sig­nif­i­cant busi­ness costs for them also,” says at­tor­ney Vic­tor Com­ras, a re­tired State De­part­ment of­fi­cial whose ex­per­tise is track­ing and stop­ping the flow of money to ter­ror­ists. Mr. Com­ras (ap­pointed by U.N. Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Kofi An­nan in 2002 as one of five in­ter­na­tional mon­i­tors over­see­ing Se­cu­rity Coun­cil mea­sures against al Qaeda and the Tal­iban and re­peat­edly ap­pointed a se­nior State De­part­ment en­voy dur­ing the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion) is sharply crit­i­cal of cur­rent U.N. sanc­tions against Tehran and the IRGC, which he be­lieves are not nearly tough enough.

And two weeks ago Mr. Com­ras, writ­ing on the Coun­tert­er­ror­ism Blog, posed a se­ries of ques­tions that should serve as a guide for mon­i­tor­ing whether the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ef­forts to hit the IRGC with new sanc­tions will re­ally pun­ish Iran’s rogue regime, in­clud­ing: “Will the Trea­sury De­part­ment take any new reg­u­la­tory mea­sures to re­view the ac­tions of over­seas branches of for­eign banks and com­pa­nies do­ing busi­ness with the United States that also do busi­ness with the IRGC? Will this give new im­pe­tus to those in Congress and state leg­is­la­tures that are push­ing for strength­ened mea­sures to en­cour­age U.S. pub­lic and private fund di­vest­ment in com­pa­nies do­ing busi­ness with des­ig­nated ter­ror­ist en­ti­ties?”

Mr. Com­ras also points out that a num­ber of re­cent fed­eral court rul­ings give the United States yet an­other po­ten­tial weapon to use against “al­lies” who look the other way as their com­pa­nies in­vest in Iran: The courts have ruled that for­eign com­pa­nies do­ing busi­ness with ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions may be held li­able in U.S. courts by vic­tims of ter­ror­ism. The United States has barely be­gun to use its eco­nomic lever­age against for­eign firms and gov­ern­ments who prop up this rogue mul­lahcracy.

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