Posts Tagged ‘nuclear proliferation’

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Democrat to Europe: Prove it isn’t Iran crude

November 4, 2011

During an Oct. 13 hearing on Iran sanctions, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) described his proposal to make the European Union certify that any refined fuel products it sells to the United States did not originate from Iranian crude oil.

The concern of the power establishment is that an outright embargo on Iranian crude would limit global supply, damage the fragile economic recovery, and ultimately enrich Iran through soaring oil prices.  But the current sanctions regime hasn’t done much to deter or delay Iran from acquiring the hydrogen bomb.  Sen. Menendez’s proposal is an effort to split the difference, and get Europe to do the legwork of finding alternate suppliers to Iranian crude.  In a question to a State Department flunky (to which he later received a boilerplate answer), Menendez explains his reasoning:

The full two hour hearing can be viewed on C-SPAN’s website.

Perhaps Europe can explore for oil off the shores of America where environmentalists won’t let the U.S. do it, refine it, and sell it back to the U.S. as a certified non-Iranian product.  Or the U.S. could expand its own oil production and cut out all the middlemen.  Just saying…

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Germany among Iran’s top 3 energy buyers

October 11, 2011

According to an August report on Iran sanctions from the bipartisan Congressional Research Service, Germany is the world’s third largest importer of Iranian fuel, oil, natural gas, and other energy products.  Germany pays $400 million a year to Iran for energy.

This provides further confirmation that the U.S.-backed sanctions regime against Iran is weak unless Europe, especially Germany, can be brought aboard with an Iranian energy boycott.  Without German cooperation, Iran will be able to continue diverting oil profits toward its illicit nuclear program.

Germany pays $400 million/yr to Iran

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Zarate blasts Obama’s Iran sanctions pause

October 7, 2011

During an Aspen Institute panel discussion on terrorist financing in July, former counter-terrorism official Juan Zarate rebuked the 2009 to 2010 “pause” in economic sanctions pressure while Obama administration sought engagement with Iran.

Reporter Erin Burnette asked Zarate and former under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence Stuart Levey about the wisdom of easing up on the sanctions regime while trying to engage Iran.  Stuart Levey said that top Obama advisors underestimated how long it would take from the time they began seeking engagement until the time a new round of international sanctions would be approved, which was not until July, 2010.

That delay gave Iran a year and a half of essential time to develop their nuclear program without significant financial pressure.  In this video, Juan Zarate calls that pause in the financial pressure “a major strategic mistake.”  The momentum from sanctions beginning in 2005 had been working, and Washington could have kept applying financial pressure simultaneously while pushing for diplomatic engagement.

The timing of the pause was most unfortunate, Zarate argues, because the U.S. already knew about Iran’s “secret” nuclear site at Kom.

In addition to pointing out the Obama administration’s strategic blunder on Iran sanctions, Zarate also lets it slip in the final seconds of the video that Pres. Obama kept the well-respected Stuart Levey “leashed.”

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Articles of interest

June 5, 2011

• Wanting money, their Hezbollah masters instructed them to burn their jeep to a crisp, file a bogus insurance claim, and wire the payout to Lebanon… more>>

• Jihadists capture Zinjibar immediately taking over two banks and, thirsting for zakat, the city tax bureaumore>>

• Muhammad Mustafa, president of the Palestine Investment Fund says Gaza’s economy must be based on self-reliance, asks for $1 billion to get started… more>>

• The year—2011. The organization—a beacon of hope in the darkest of times.  Or a Hamas front group, but whatevuh… more>>

• Marie Curie he is not, but Ahmadinejad is rather passionate about uranium. Enter Zimbabwe… more>>

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El Adel: no price too high for nukes

May 23, 2011

Saif el Adel has been named the new, acting head of al Qaeda, according to a reliable insider source.

CNN’s Peter Bergen has the news article here explaining the details.

Long War Journal plumbs farther into el Adel’s background, particular el Adel’s extensive ties to and presence in Iran.

One item of interest from the Long War Journal analysis describes el Adel’s willingness to pay any price in order to procure Russian nuclear devices:

Throughout 2002 and 2003, the CIA collected disturbing intelligence on al Qaeda’s pursuit of lethal weapons while holed up inside Iran. In his autobiography, At the Center of the Storm, former Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet writes:

From the end of 2002 to the spring of 2003, we received a stream of reliable reporting that the senior al Qaeda leadership in Saudi Arabia was negotiating for the purchase of three Russian nuclear devices. Saudi al Qaeda chief Abu Bakr relayed the offer directly to the al Qaeda leadership in Iran, where Saif al Adel and Abdel al Aziz al Masri (described as al Qaeda’s “nuclear chief” by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed) were reportedly being held under a loose form of house arrest by the Iranian regime.

Al Adel told Abu Bakr “that no price was too high to pay if they could get their hands on such weapons,” according to Tenet. But al Adel “cautioned” against “scams,” saying that “Pakistani specialists should be brought to Saudi Arabia to inspect the merchandise prior to purchase.”

El Adel may start pressing the flesh among Arab bankrollers if he wants to keep his new job, restore al Qaeda’s financial health, and get enough money for his old dreams of a nuclear bomb.  And the West will need to keep as much of a financial squeeze on al Qaeda as ever.

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Menendez suggests Cohen weakness

May 13, 2011

In a follow-up to this post about the confirmation hearings David Cohen, the nominee to be the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) wants some reassurance that Cohen is committed fully to enforcing CISADA, a U.S. sanctions law against Iran.

When questioned about why more hadn’t been done to enforce the law, Cohen’s answer could be translated “we’re working on it.”  Froom Haaretz on May 5:

U.S. Treasury nears decision on expanding Iran sanctions

The law, aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program, effectively requires banks to choose between dealing with the U.S.-led financial system or to continue doing business with Iran.
By Reuters

The United States Treasury is close to a decision whether to blacklist more banks that appear to be defying sanctions against Iran, including an institution in Turkey, a senior Treasury official said on Tuesday.

David Cohen, nominated to be Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial crimes, told a U.S. Senate confirmation hearing that he will vigorously enforce the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Disinvestment Act (CISADA)
 
The law, aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program, effectively requires banks to choose between dealing with the U.S.-led financial system or to continue doing business with Iran.

Members of the Senate Banking Committee questioned Cohen on why Treasury had not sanctioned any banks under CISADA, which was passed in July 2010 to enforce tougher UN sanctions against Iran.

“We are pursuing the leverage” against banks dealing with Iran, Cohen said. “Our first option is to get them to stop. Our second best option is to apply sanctions. Without getting into the details of any particular investigation, we are getting close to a decision point on several institutions,” Cohen did not name any of the banks, but said that one institution in Turkey was effectively violating the sanctions.

“We are committed to enforcing the law,” Cohen added. “Generically, we have a financial institution (in Turkey) that is not responsive to our overtures and it is engaged in activity that is sanctionable under CISADA. We will pursue that very vigorously.”

Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, said he was concerned that Treasury had not adequately enforced the CISADA law.

“I am seriously concerned that as one of the prime movers of that legislation, that a sanctions regime that ultimately goes largely unenforced or to low-level players, sends the message of a toothless tiger,” Menendez said.

He added that he wanted a sense that Cohen, who is now serving as acting undersecretary, would pursue sanctions under CISADA before he would support Cohen’s nomination.

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UN funds rogue nuclear ambitions

April 7, 2011

First we pay the Taliban to “reintegrate” with the government of Afghanistan.  Then we consider arming Libyan rebels who include Al Qaeda.  Meanwhile, we fund “technical” and “peaceful” nuclear aspirations of rogue regimes.  Will the news of Western governments and international organizations supporting our enemies never cease?  From the Daily Beast on Mar. 22:

Iran, Sudan, Syria, and other countries the U.S. has named state sponsors of terrorism have received millions of dollars in U.N. nuclear technology aid—and Hillary Clinton won’t stop the flow of cash. Laurel Adams of the Center for Public Integrity reports.

The State Department is refusing to block U.N. nuclear technology aid to countries that are on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, including Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s regime.

The reason, says Hillary Clinton’s department, is that such a clampdown would hinder other countries that have nothing to do with terrorism.

The U.S. provides $20 million a year to help finance the International Atomic Energy Agency, which promotes peaceful use of nuclear energy. But some IAEA funds have gone to countries that could potentially use nuclear technology to build weapons, the Government Accountability Office warns in a new report.

Neither the State Department nor the IAEA have sought to limit the so-called technical cooperation aid to terror-linked nations such as Iran, Sudan, Syria, and Cuba, or countries that are not party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, such as India, Israel, and Pakistan, the congressional watchdog says.

The former head of the program told investigators that requests for technical assistance are evaluated strictly on technical merits, thwarting efforts to assess national-security concerns.

“State officials told us that the U.S. did not systematically try to limit TC projects in Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria—which the department designated as sponsors of terrorism,” the report says. “These four countries received more than $55 million in TC assistance from 1997 through 2007.”

During the same time frame, India, Israel, and Pakistan received $24.6 million in technical assistance, even though none is a party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Nuclear equipment and technology, even if geared toward peaceful purposes, also can be used to develop nuclear weapons. Yet the former head of the TC program told the investigators that requests for technical assistance are evaluated strictly on technical merits, thereby thwarting efforts to assess national-security concerns.

The GAO has suggested repeatedly that the State Department withhold the U.S. contribution to IAEA that would go to countries accused of aiding terrorists.

“The United States has applied several types of sanctions limiting foreign assistance and trade to states it has designated as sponsors of terrorism and to other countries. To avoid the appearance of an inconsistent approach and to foster greater cohesion in U.S. policy toward such nations, we believe that it is fair for Congress to consider requiring State to withhold a share of the U.S. contribution,” the GAO says.

Withholding funds would undermine the Obama administration’s ability to convince other member countries to contribute to the fund, and since the funding is not traced to specific projects, it would punish all recipients in the program, the State Department said in response.

The IAEA provides minimal information on project proposals, usually just project titles, which further hinders efforts by the Energy Department to assess the risk of proliferation in countries requesting assistance.

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Jorisch: Germany helps Iran get the bomb

April 6, 2011

Not to be outdone by their French neighbors, Germany’s business ties with Iran appear to be growing.  Counter-terror expert Avi Jorisch argues that the German links help banks that are under sanction by the United States for their ties with Iran’s nuclear program.  From Ynet via The Terror Finance Blog:

India is poised to assist Iran in sidestepping international sanctions by using the German financial system to facilitate the transfer from India to Iran of billions of dollars annually for oil sales. The United States and the European Union should take immediate action to prevent this abuse of the financial sector. Failure to take a strong stance will allow a rogue regime to fill its coffers with the hard currency it needs to repress its people, facilitate terrorism, and build a nuclear bomb.

On March 29, Germany’s foreign and economic ministries ratified an arrangement that would allow India to transfer an estimated $12.65 billion dollars to the German Central Bank to pay for Iranian oil. The money would then be routed to Iran through the European-Iranian Bank (Europäisch-Iranische Handelsbank, or EIH), which has been blacklisted for proliferating weapons of mass destruction.

According to the Indian press, New Delhi and Tehran have been trying to find a way to conduct business for some time, as sanctions levied by the US, Europe, and the United Nations have made it difficult for Iran to move its funds internationally.

Until recently, India and Iran were using a relatively unknown clearing house based in Tehran to move billions of dollars annually. In late 2010, the US government realized that Iran was able to circumvent sanctions easily using the Asian Clearing Union (ACU), and that India was the major culprit. Since 2008, India and Iran have transacted business involving approximately $30 billion dollars using the ACU. Washington put significant pressure on the Indian government, and transactions between Tehran and New Delhi have ground to a halt.

Supporting Iran’s terror agenda

For decades, Germany has served as the Islamic Republic’s largest trading partner on the European continent. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Screw the sanctions, and the people

March 10, 2011

Short post today.  Economic sanctions aren’t exactly getting in the way of Iran’s nuclear procurement if recent press accounts are to be believed.

Despite international sanctions, Zimbabwe says it will sell uranium to fellow pariah Iran.  Read about it at Jihad Watch

Iran says it is, in fact, proud to be under sanctions by the West.  Meanwhile, suffering Iranians are telling their leaders, “We are hungry.”  Check it out at the Ground Report.

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L’énergie nucléaire for Saudis & bin Ladens

February 22, 2011

Ah, another Gaullist day in Arabia.  The French company Areva is “excited” to have signed a deal to furnish Saudi Arabia with nuclear power.  Areva, which is 90 percent government-owned, is including a solar power deal for the sunbaked desert kingdom for good public show, too. 

Behind the convenient cover story of a depleting energy supply and a desire to diversify civil energy sources, the Saudis are probably pursuing the technology as a counterweight to Iran’s nuclear program.  On one hand, the initiative may be a beneficial deterrent to Iran.  On the other hand, considering the rising tide of Islamist protests against the existing regimes of the Islamic world, selling technologies to a “rational” actor like the Saudi royal family could prove to be disastrously shortsighted.

Oh, and the bin Laden Group will also be a co-partner in the power plant construction, but that is but a petit detail, oui?  Read it all, mes amis, from The National last month (with hat tip to Crossroads Arabia):

Saudi Binladin Group and the French nuclear reactor designer Areva are to sign an agreement on nuclear and solar power, advancing Saudi plans for diversifying the kingdom’s electricity supply.

Anne Lauvergeon, the chief executive of Areva, announced the prospective deal in Riyadh on Sunday, saying the companies would sign a partnership agreement to develop both types of power. She declined to give further details.

“We are in a major energy evolution in the region,” Ms Lauvergeon told a conference in the Saudi capital. “In the past it was oil and gas, and that was it. Now it’s oil, gas, renewables and nuclear.

“We are very excited about this evolution and we would like to be a long-term partner of these developments.”

“We think that on solar thermal in Saudi Arabia there’s an important market and we are partnering with Saudi Binladin Group to develop this,” Ms Lauvergeon added on the sidelines of the conference.

A spokeswoman for Areva, reached at the company’s Paris headquarters yesterday, said any deal signed in Saudi Arabia would mainly concern solar power. She said Ms Lauvergeon travelled to Riyadh in response to Saudi requests for discussions on possible solar projects and advice on the direction of the kingdom’s nuclear programme.

Saudi Arabia has responded to soaring power demand as it pursues industrial development by burning oil in its power plants to supplement an insufficient gas supply. As a result, air quality in its cities has deteriorated, while power cuts remain frequent in summer.

Moreover, Saudi Arabia has burnt increasing amounts of crude oil in its power plants in the past two years, limiting foreign revenue from oil exports as the kingdom has also sought to comply with the output cuts on which Opec agreed in late 2008. It is the only major economy dependent on oil for more than 50 per cent of electricity supplies.

Hashim Yamani, the president of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Atomic and Renewable Energy City, said power diversification would free up more oil for export.

“Saudi will need to invest upfront in nuclear energy but the oil saved will contribute significantly to the costs,” Mr Yamani told Reuters. “Nuclear and renewable energy will reduce dependence on fossil fuels by 2050”…

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Feckless asset freezes?

April 6, 2010

The Wall Street Journal ran an excellent article by Steve Stecklow yesterday on the teeny tiny amount of assets frozen under U.S. and international sanctions regimes against Iran.  The experts are saying that it’s not about the dollars, but the pressure—let’s hope they’re right.

In its latest proposed set of tougher United Nations sanctions on Iran, the U.S. is again relying on asset freezes as one tool to pressure the country not to build nuclear weapons.

But a close look at how much Iranian money has been frozen to date in the U.S. under existing sanctions shows that the total amount is surprisingly small, less than $43 million, or roughly a quarter of what Iran earns in oil revenue in a single day.

Other countries also haven’t frozen very much, despite freezes implemented by the European Union and the U.N., interviews show. Switzerland, for example, has frozen only about $1.4 million in Iranian assets—a tiny fraction of the $712 million Swiss companies exported to Iran last year.

“It’s peanuts,” says Jeremy P. Carver, a British attorney who has advised governments on implementing sanctions. “It’s not going to really change a thing.”

U.S. officials do not dispute that current amounts of frozen Iranian assets seem small. In some cases, Iran has shifted the money outside the U.S. or EU to avoid sanctions. The officials emphasize that their strategy is not to seize many assets, but to pressure Iran to change its ways by making it extremely difficult for it to do business.

“The strategy is not to freeze as many assets as we can,” says Stuart Levey, the Treasury Department official who has headed the U.S. sanctions initiative during both the Obama and Bush administrations. “That alone, without the full range of measures we can bring to bear, would be a failing strategy.”

The proposed new asset freezes come as an Iranian firm recently acquired hardware used to enrich uranium, circumventing current sanctions designed to prevent such purchases, The Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend. The International Atomic Energy Agency is investigating how the Iranian firm procured valves and vacuum gauges used in uranium enrichment that were made by a French company owned by Tyco International Ltd. until December. The French and U.S. companies have said they knew nothing about it.

Iran insists it is trying to develop civilian atomic power—not weapons. A spokesman for Iran’s U.N. mission in New York did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Asset freezes remain part of the U.S. and its allies’ arsenal in trying to pressure Iran not to develop atomic weapons…

The full WSJ article is here.  My closing comment is that if I were one of the bankers required to report information on my customers all the time to the Treasury, I would be disappointed to hear that the heavy federal regulations on my industry hadn’t amounted to much.

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