This week saw more confident language surrounding ongoing UN sanctions talks:
“I am very confident that unless Iran does something significant that demonstrates that it is taking confidence building measures, I am very confident we will get a Security Council resolution that is supported by the majority of the UN Security Council.”
In his comments this past Tuesday, White House WMD czar Gary Samore confirmed his belief that both Russia and China are likely to support an eventual resolution.
Unfortunately, Samore is not so confident about the zombie fuel swap, noting that that current Brazilian and Turkish efforts are unlikely to achieve a diplomatic breakthrough and, as such, the US is holding out little hope for the deal.
“The Iranians have frankly not been prepared to accept that offer, it’s pretty clear to anybody,” Samore said, “and Turkey will soon satisfy themselves of that.”
He also added that Iran’s “nuclear clock is not moving as quickly as some feared, because of problems the Iranians have had in terms of their centrifuges,” but declined to say whether the centrifuge problems were a result of alleged Western attempts to thwart work by the machines.
Meanwhile, Congress is hard at work making the case against exemptions for cooperating countries from corporate sanctions, such as those requested by the administration…
On Wednesday, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, led by Chairman Joe Lieberman, heard testimony from GAO that, despite existing US sanctions, seven firms involved in the Iranian oil, gas and petrochemical sectors received $880 million in US government contracts over the past four years.
CQ Today reports that:
Although the GAO report, dated May 4, did not attempt to determine whether the seven firms violated the existing U.S. sanctions enacted in 1996, senators were quick to interpret the findings from Congress’ independent investigative arm as further evidence that successive administrations have failed to enforce the restrictions.
Lieberman made clear after the hearing that “a lot of the ‘should’s’” in the 1996 bill language will need to “become ‘shall’s’” this time around.
To that end, Lieberman announced that he would put together a letter to both Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates detailing the panel’s concerns, including the GAO’s latest findings.
Though it may look like the administration has dropped a pretty significant ball here by not pressing harder for exceptions, especially when those same exceptions could potentially make or break the aforementioned, very confident, support needed for UN sanctions, it seems that the administration may be busy waging its own private, very sanction-ish, campaign on the sidelines.
Since March, a significant number of foreign companies have announced plans to cut, suspend, or rein in ties with Iran, including oil majors Eni, LUKOIL and Royal Dutch Shell, Indian refiner Reliance Industries, US construction and mining equipment maker Caterpillar, and luxury German carmarker Daimler. KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Ernst & Young have also declared themselves free of any business ties to Iran.
Reuters reports that all this may be the handiwork of Stuart Levey, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, who has been traveling to foreign capitals to talk to governments, financial regulators, banks and business leaders for months:
“We view the business community as an ally and we talk to them in that sense. We have information regarding Iranian illicit conduct that they might not have, and we provide them with the advantage of our viewpoint so they can better assess their own risks.”
Levey notes that his goal not to squash Iran’s economy completely, and he would prefer to minimize the impact of these cuts on Iran’s citizens, but “It’s hard to get it surgically precise.”