Posts Tagged ‘David S. Cohen’

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Treasury says Iran will keep funding Hezbollah

September 4, 2015

Treasury undersecretary Adam Szubin says Iran will continue sponsoring terrorism regardless of the sanctions deal with Iran.  This seems to be a point upon which many executive branch officials agree.  In fact, it will probably worsen.  We’ve covered many reports over the years of Hezbollah and Hamas budgets suffering because of sanctions against Iran.  Logically, as sanctions are lifted, we can expect the Shia-backed terrorist groups to replenish their bank accounts and fund newer, bolder attacks.

From the Washington Free Beacon:

Sanctions Czar: Iran will Continue Funding Terrorist Armies Under Nuclear Deal

BY: Blake Seitz

Obama’s sanctions czar admitted Wednesday that Iran would continue to fund terrorist proxies like Hezbollah under the nuclear deal.

Administration officials like Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Treasury Jack Lew have downplayed the possibility that Iran could use sanctions relief cash to fund terrorism, saying that much of that money would be earmarked for debt relief and domestic projects.

Adam Szubin, the undersecretary of Treasury for terrorism and financial crimes, was more candid about the most likely use of sanctions relief money.

“Unfortunately I do expect to continue to see Iran funding Hezbollah and its other violent terrorist proxies,” Szubin told the Senate Banking Committee.

Szubin praised the U.S. sanctions regime for bringing the Iranian economy to its knees.

“Thanks to those congressional sanctions, our sanctions against Iran’s proxies carry this international weigh and designated entities become pariahs worldwide,” Szubin said.

Szubin said that “it is incumbent” on the U.S. “to do more” through sanctions to stop Iran’s financing of terrorism—although the president’s nuclear deal lifts many sanctions on Iran and allows its banned banks back into the global financial system…

Szubin has replaced David Cohen as undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.  President Obama has named Cohen as the deputy director of the CIA.

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Treasury hopes ISIS will go broke on its own

October 28, 2014

In remarks last week (hat tip to @HSPI), Treasury official David Cohen confirmed that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria makes $1 million a day from oil sales, that it has made $20 million this year in ransoms, and that it makes millions a month from extortion. Cohen laid out plans to counter each facet of ISIS’s funding.

Cohen also acknowledged that some of Treasury’s tools aren’t well suited to the task of bankrupting ISIS, but noted with some optimism that “Attempting to govern the cities, towns and sprawling territory in Iraq and Syria where it currently operates, much less delivering some modicum of services to the millions of people it seeks to subjugate, is expensive,” and that ISIS would ultimately be unable “to meet the cost of governing.”

To support his argument, Cohen cited a journalist with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who reckons that, although ISIS is well funded, the budgetary demands of controlling such a large territory exceed even their financial resources. ISIS’s revenues may be $1.5 billion annually, but prior Iraqi budgets for the provinces under ISIS’s control exceeded $2.5 billion per year.

ISIS’s potential budget deficits become even starker when one considers that most of its money isn’t spent on public services. Die Welt has reported (hat tip to Puneet) that just one-third of ISIS’s money is spent on providing basic utilities and social services to the population within its territory, while one-third go to salaries for fighters and employees, and one-third is spent on weapons.

So there is hope that ISIS could be taken down a peg financially, but it won’t be through sanctions and monitoring suspicious financial activity: it could come through diplomacy, military action, and by the harsh realities of governance.

(Thanks to Terrorism Watch, El Grillo, and Red Team Red Queen for sending in news coverage of Cohen’s remarks.)

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Obama’s 10 biggest terror finance blunders

November 5, 2012

  1. Promising to make it easier for Muslims to give zakat.  Pres. Obama has tried to remove the so-called “chilling effect” that George W. Bush, the Patriot Act, the Treasury Department, and law enforcement “created” by closing down Islamic charities that funded terrorism.  Rather than building on the Bush administration’s successful prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation for sponsoring Hamas, Obama won’t prosecute Islamic Relief, he won’t prosecute CAIR, he won’t investigate ISNA or NAIT, and the IRS has been derelict in stripping suspicious Islamic organizations of their tax-exempt status.
  2. Funding the Arab Spring that has led to the rise of Muslim Brotherhood dominated governments in the Middle East who behave against U.S. national security interests.
  3. Minimizing our energy independence from Middle East oil by reducing oil production on federal lands and waters, rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline, impeding hydraulic fracturing permitting, etc.
  4. Making little to no progress on bankrupting the Taliban.
  5. Dragging his feet in adopting sanctions against Al Qaeda and Taliban affiliates such as the Pakistani Taliban and the Haqqani network. Read the rest of this entry ?
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Obama’s flawed sanctions chief ends Arab trip

December 21, 2011

David S. Cohen, a former Clinton lawyer who Pres. Obama entrusted with a sanctions regime that is supposed to provide for the nuclear containment of Iran, is wrapping up a four-day trip to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

The State Department says that Mr. Cohen was conferring with officials in those countries about sanctions against the Central Bank of Iran and against Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria.

Surprisingly, although Bahrain shockingly has no legal means of freezing assets in its own country, there is no indication that Mr. Cohen addressed this shortcoming with officials in Manama.

Mr. Cohen has consistently misled the American public about the level of Saudi cooperation in combating terrorist financing.  Consequently, it will be difficult to judge the truthfulness of whatever statements are released at the conclusion of this trip.

Moreover, after Mr. Cohen back-stabbed U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) during backdoor negotiations on Iran sanctions, one wonders what would make Arab officials trust Mr. Cohen.

Seeking cooperation on sanctions is a good objective, but sending a flawed messenger indicates Pres. Obama’s lack of seriousness about sanctions against Syria and Iran.

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Obama flunkies doublecross Senate on sanctions

December 4, 2011

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) wanted a tougher set of sanctions against Iran, particularly against the Central Bank of Iran and any foreign banks still doing business with it.  Pres. Obama’s underlings objected, saying it would restrict oil sales by Iran and increase the international price of oil, damage the world economic recovery, and turn off our allies who supposedly (contrary to all recent evidence) support a slower approaching to sanctions tightening.  But the underlings claimed that they shared the same goal as Sen. Menendez, and would work with him to develop a compromise acceptable to the White House.

So people like David S. Cohen, Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, worked diligently over the last couple weeks to water down the amendment to the defense authorization bill that Menendez and Republican Sen. Ron Kirk jointly proposed.  Once Obama’s Treasury and State officials had forced a significant number of exceptions, waivers, and escape clauses into the amendment, Sen. Menendez thought the legislation was ready for bipartisan support in the Senate and support by the Obama administration.

Suddenly, during a Senate foreign relations committee hearing on Dec. 1, the Obama bureaucrats pulled the rug out from under Sen. Menendez, and came out against even the watered down financial sanctions.  The video from an impassioned Sen. Menendez is a must-watch for insight into how this administration behaves:

Immediately after Sen. Menendez finished his remarks about the bureaucrats “vitiating” the amendment, Sen. John Kerry quipped that they didn’t vitiate it, they villified it.  With that, the Obama flunkies had succeeded in alienating Senate Democrats on this matter, who then defied the White House and joined with Republicans to approve the amendment by a vote of 100 to zero.

The president will veto the bill over an unrelated matter, further delaying stronger sanctions.

Meanwhile, allies who supposedly want to move slower, like France, are pushing for a blanket oil embargo on Iran.  The officials at Treasury constantly try to convince the public that Iran faces enormous pressure from existing sanctions, and Mr. Cohen always trots out some graph depicting the falling market value of the Iranian rial against the U.S. dollar.  Sir, if a nuclear bomb lands on Tel Aviv, will you still be lecturing us on the great job Treasury did at weakening the Iranian rial?

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Iran permits al Qaeda money pipeline

August 1, 2011
Map of money flow from Saudi Arabia & Qatar through Iran to Afghanistan & Pakistan

Iran lets money, arms, and men flow from the Gulf to Asia

Iran is permitting al Qaeda operatives to use their territory as a pipeline between Gulf donors and Afghani and Pakistani jihadists.  The Treasury Department is, somewhat surprisingly, actually calling Iran out for its behavior and sanctioning six al Qaeda operatives in Iran.  From the Financial Times on July 28:

US charges Iran with al-Qaeda links

By Anna Fifield in Washington

The US government has accused Iran of allowing al-Qaeda operatives to funnel a “significant” amount of money through its territory to the group’s leaders in Pakistan and Afghanistan, making the strongest allegation yet of a link between Tehran and the terrorist network.

The Treasury Department on Thursday imposed sanctions on six men that it says are operating through Iran as part of a “critical funding and facilitation network for al-Qaeda”.

The designation was also a direct hit at the theocratic regime in Iran, said David Cohen, the Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

“Our sense is that this network is operating through Iranian territory with the knowledge of and at least the acquiescence of the Iranian authorities,” Mr Cohen said. “They are not operating in secret. It is pursuant to an agreement.”

The Treasury targeted Ezedin Abdel Aziz Khalil, a senior al-Qaeda facilitator who it said has been living and operating in Iran since 2005 under an agreement between the network and the Tehran regime.

It said that the Iranian authorities were allowing Mr Khalil to move both money and recruits from across the Middle East through Iran to Pakistan. He required each operative to deliver $10,000 to al-Qaeda in Pakistan, it said.

The Treasury also designated five others who were linked to former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden or to al-Qaeda in Iraq, or who had helped deliver money or extremists to the network’s base in Pakistan.

Read the rest of this entry ?

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Cohen adds Iran sanctions to get promoted

June 30, 2011

According to The Cable, David Cohen’s nomination to become Treasury’s new undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence is “back on track.”

Cohen’s nomination had been delayed because of concerns about the Obama administration’s lack of tenacity in enforcing anti-Iran sanctions laws.  Cohen, a former Clinton lawyer with little understanding of terrorist financing methods, responded to the delay by jumping through whatever hoops the Senate created in order to get confirmed.

This included the recent addition of sanctions against ten companies tied to Iran’s nefarious state shipping firm (IRISL) and a designation against Venezuela’s state oil company for selling gasoline to Iran.

But going after IRISL and Chavez wasn’t enough. 

It took sanctions against Iran Air and Tidewater Middle East, Iran’s major airline and port operator, to make Cohen’s final sale to the Senate.  Once those designations were announced, Sen. Ron Kirk wrote:

I applaud Acting Under Secretary David Cohen for moving decisively to designate Iran Air and a major Iranian port operator responsible for facilitating Iran’s illicit transfer of weapons and other proliferation activities. Both designations will significantly restrict shipping to and from Iran and put even more pressure on the Iranian economy.  Under Secretary Cohen has proven himself to be a worthy successor to former Under Secretary Levey. He has my confidence.

Political horse trading is what it is, but Mr. Cohen is still an unwise selection for the post for reasons discussed here.  A positive outcome of the whole seedy transaction is that the sanctions regime, which even Democrat Senator Bob Menendez called a “paper tiger,” has become stronger.

However, the enterprising Avi Jorisch recently noted that the sanctions “are not working” partly because of the large number of loopholes in the sanctions regime against Iranian banks that are involved with funding Iran’s nuclear program.  Specifically, Europe allows pre-existing bank relationships to continue, and only prohibits new ones.  Jorisch explains:

Unfortunately, many banks continue to do business with Tehran’s illicit financial industry, and this undermines the sanctions effort. Many of Iran’s designated banks, including those named by the United Nations and the European Union, have a number of branches in countries such as China, Russia, Italy, South Korea, France, Iraq, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, among others. Indeed, some of America’s closest allies have publicly claimed their support for sanctions, while at the same time, allowed the Iranian regime free access to hard currency and the international financial sector.

Quietly, European policymakers have said that designated branches can continue to operate in their jurisdictions as long as the transactions relate to contracts signed prior to the UN designation. No new business is allowed, not even “getting new phone lines.” Yet in practice, this loophole allows Iranian banks to maintain their business licenses in Europe, and continue to operate as they did before. In other words, as long as Iran signed a contract with a European company the day before UN sanctions were enacted, European officials are willing to look the other way.

Perhaps the Senate should have held out until these loopholes were shored up as well.