July 31, 2012 at 3:12 pm
Iran bank chief calls sanctions akin to 'war'
By Donna Cassata
Washington Congress pushed ahead Tuesday with a new package of crippling sanctions on Iran, targeting its energy, shipping and financial sectors in the hope that hitting Tehran's oil income will halt its suspected nuclear weapons program.
The latest round of penalties drew a sharp rebuke from Iranian officials who labeled the economic pressure "warfare" and promised to retool the country's oil-dependent economy.
House and Senate negotiators reached agreement late Monday on legislation that builds on the current penalties directed at financial institutions that do business with Iran's central bank. The new bill would impose sanctions on anyone who mines uranium with Iran; sells, leases or provides oil tankers to Tehran; or provides insurance to the National Iranian Tanker Co., the state-run shipping line.
Lawmakers hope to vote on the bill this week before their monthlong August recess, with a House vote as early as Wednesday. The measure has one crucial backer the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the pro-Israel lobbying group and extensive support from Republicans and Democrats.
"That will go a long way," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said of the AIPAC support. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., who pushed for the shipping sanctions, called the bill a good move at a critical time.
The bill would penalize anyone who works in Iran's petroleum, petrochemical or natural gas sector, or helps Tehran's oil and gas industry by providing goods, services, technology or infrastructure.
Any entity that insures or reinsures investments in Iran's oil sector would be penalized. So would anyone who helps Iran avoid sanctions through reflagging of vessels.
"This bipartisan, bicameral Iran sanctions legislation strengthens current U.S. law by leaps and bounds," said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "It updates and expands U.S. sanctions, and counters Iran's efforts to evade them. The bill sends a clear message to the Iranian regime that the U.S. is committed, through the use of sanctions, to preventing Iran from crossing the nuclear threshold."
The official IRNA news agency quotes Iran's central bank chief Mahmoud Bahmani as saying that sanctions are "no less than a military war" and that Iran must respond with its own economic countermeasures.
Tuesday's report gave no details, but says a special headquarters has been set up to fight back against the sanctions that have targeted Iran's vital oil exports and its access to international banking systems.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called the sanctions "political warfare."
Ahmadinejad on Tuesday slammed Western sanctions on Iran's oil sector as a "ridiculous" move that seeks to deprive the world of energy resources at a time when demand is swelling.
The United States and Europe argue that depriving Iran of its oil income thwarts its suspected drive for nuclear weapons. Iran has exported 2.5 million barrels of oil a day to Europe, China, India, Japan and South Korea. U.S. officials say the penalties have reduced Iran oil exports to less than 1.8 million barrels a day, costing Tehran about $63 million daily.
Unless Iranians "come clean on their nuclear program, end the suppression of their people and stop supporting terrorist activities, they will face deepening international isolation and even greater economic and diplomatic pressure," said Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.
Ros-Lehtinen and Johnson and their staffs worked for weeks behind closed doors reconciling a bill the House passed in December and one the Senate approved in May. Johnson said they incorporated a number of provisions sought by proponents of tough sanctions.
The bill would target the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and anyone who assists the paramilitary group, including foreign government agencies.
The bill also would deny visas and freeze assets on individuals and companies that supply Iran with technology that could be used against its citizens, such as tear gas, rubber bullets and surveillance equipment. The bill extends those sanctions on human rights violators to Syria, where President Bashar Assad's regime is accused of a bloody crackdown against protesters.
The bill requires companies that trade on the U.S. stock exchange to disclose any Iran-related business to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Late last year, Congress overwhelmingly approved sanctions targeting foreign financial institutions that do business with Iran's central bank by barring them from opening or maintaining correspondent operations in the United States. Those sanctions applied to foreign central banks only for transactions that involve the sale or purchase of petroleum or petroleum products.
The new bill expands on those penalties.
Nemo me impune lacesset,
|"The chief aim of all government is to preserve the freedom of the citizen. His control over his person, his property, his movements, his business, his desires should be restrained only so far as the public welfare imperatively demands. The world is in more danger of being governed too much than too little.
It is the teaching of all history that liberty can only be preserved in small areas. Local self-government is, therefore, indispensable to liberty. A centralized and distant bureaucracy is the worst of all tyranny.
Taxation can justly be levied for no purpose other than to provide revenue for the support of the government. To tax one person, class or section to provide revenue for the benefit of another is none the less robbery because done under the form of law and called taxation."
John W. Davis, Democratic Presidential Candidate, 1924. Davis was one of the greatest trial and appellate lawyers in US history. He also served as the US Ambassador to the UK.