(BBI) B'nai B'rith International applauds the House of Representatives for passing the bipartisan Nuclear Iran Prevention Act on July 31 by an overwhelming majority. By reducing Iran's oil exports and further shackling its economy, the bill would send an important signal to new Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani about the cost of continuing the country's unswerving pursuit of nuclear weapons.
The legislation seeks to decrease Iranian oil exports from 1.25 million barrels per year to 250,000 barrels by the end of 2014. It would also expand the blacklist of Iran's various economic sectors and further limit the country's access to overseas foreign currency reserves. Sanctions against Iran have already drastically limited the country's oil exports and severely hampered its economy.
B'nai B'rith calls on the Senate to expeditiously pass a companion bill. Any delay in the legislative process would only serve Iran's dilatory purposes.
While a new president prepares to take office in Iran, Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei has shown no sign of slowing Iran's nuclear development. Iran's ongoing installation of advanced centrifuges has brought it nearer to weapons-grade uranium production, which is the linchpin for nuclear weapons capability.
Iran has consistently used negotiations to stall the international community. Diplomacy can succeed only if the United States and its allies broaden and strengthen the current sanctions framework against Iran.
Comments from Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) and Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) follow the jump.
As a result of the United States' continuing pressure against Iran due to their pursuits of developing nuclear weapons, a recent report from Reuters reveals that the "gas-for-gold" trade between Turkey and Iran has been frozen out. This follows on previous reports of the crippling effects of US and European Union sanctions against Iran and a commitment from President Obama to "prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon" during the State of the Union.
The most recent sanctions, passed into law last summer and implemented on February 6th by the Treasury Department, require Iran to use the money from any oil sales to Turkey for sanction-free goods such as food and medicine.
The full text of the Reuters report can be found here.
With the arrival of Chanukah, a celebration of Jewish resilience, Jews on campuses across North America have evoked the Maccabee spirit in recent weeks to counter the increasingly loud calls from anti-Israel groups that have demanded boycotts of Israel, divestment from it and sanctions against it (BDS).
Ryan argued that 'this administration watered down sanctions, delayed sanctions, tried to stop (Congress) from putting the tough sanctions in place.' He's right that the Obama administration compromised with Russia and China to earn their backing in the U.N. Security Council, and pushed for legislative waivers and other flexibility from Congress as it organized an international coalition to counter Iran.
But just because the administration resisted plans in Congress does not mean it failed to get tough sanctions imposed. In fact, that international diplomacy has resulted in 'what many now consider to be "crippling" sanctions.' In fact, there's now so much economic pressure on Iran that Congress' research arm reports Iran may soon decide to seek a nuclear compromise.
That's the opposite of what Ryan's critique suggests. He employs a sliver of truth in service of a misleading impression. We rate his claim Mostly False.
While Ahmadinjad's was in New York for the General Assembly, American intelligence pulled off a real coup by fascilitating the defection of Ahmadinejad's personal cameraman, Hassan Golkhanban, along with an "intelligence treasure trove of up-to-date photographs and videos of top Iranian leaders visiting their most sensitive and secret nuclear and missile sites." According to DEBKAFile:
For some years, Golkhanban worked not just as a news cameraman but personally recorded visits by the Iranian president and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of top-secret nuclear facilities and Revolutionary Guards installations.
When he left Tehran in the president's party, his luggage was not searched and so he was able to bring out two suitcases packed with precious film and deliver it safely into waiting hands in New York.
The Iranian cameraman has given US intelligence the most complete and updated footage it has ever obtained of the interiors of Iran's top secret military facilities and various nuclear installations, including some never revealed to nuclear watchdog inspectors. Among them are exclusive interior shots of the Natanz nuclear complex, the Fordo underground enrichment plant, the Parchin military complex and the small Amir-Abad research reactor in Tehran.
Some of the film depicts Revolutionary Guards and military industry chiefs explaining in detail to the president or supreme leader the working of secret equipment on view. Golkhanban recorded their voices.
II. 25-Nation Armada
Last month a 25-nation armada ran a giant war game in the Strait of Hormuz, simulating the kind of military cooperation which would be required to breach an Iranian blockade keep oil flowing through the Straits in case of war with Iran. This simulation not only provides important military readiness, but it sends a clear message to the Iranians that the international community will not tolerate a blockade.
As we reported on Wednesday, international sanction are starting to have a serious effect on the Iranian economy. Hyperinflation has caused the Iranian Rial to lose half of its value in a matter of months. The economy is on the "verge of collapse" according to the Israeli foreign ministry as Ahmadinjad's regime is now faced with domestic unrest.
IV. Disarmament Plan
In desparation Iranian official have reported proposed a disarmament plan. However, this plan has been rejected as insufficient by the Obama administration. According to JTA,
The Iranian offer was to gradually suspend the production of uranium that can quickly be converted to military use. But American officials dismissed the proposal as unworkable because it requires too many concessions by the West, including the dismantling of all sanctions before uranian enrichment would cease, The New York Times reported. The plan calls for a step-by-step lifting of sanctions while the Iranians end work at one of two sites producing highly enriched uranium. Once the Iranians reach the last step, and the sanctions have been entirely lifted, there would be a suspension of the medium-enriched uranium production at the Fordow underground site, according to the plan, the Times reported.
Obama administration officials told the Times that the deal was intended to generate headlines but would not guarantee that Iran could not produce a weapon.
Less than a week after the Israeli foreign ministry's report on the impact of sanctions, the economic situation in Iran has tanked even further, according to many reports; Iran's economy is on the "verge of collapse" and the state is now faced with domestic unrest.
On Sunday, Israeli finance minister Yuval Steinitz told Israel Radio that the Iranian economy is close to collapse, primarily as a result of sanctions. In fact, the value of Iran's currency, the rial, has dropped as much as 40% against the dollar in the last week, according to Reuters. The decline of the rial, said economists in the Washington Post, is the clearest indication that years of sanctions are taking a significant toll and have "deeply wounded" the Iranian economy.
Further, for the first time, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad conceded this week that the difficult economic situation his country faces is due to the U.S.-led sanctions, saying that "external elements" have worked to "pressure the people of Iran," pointing to restrictions on both the oil and banking industries.
The struggling economy has sparked civil unrest, with Iranians taking to the streets in protest. The main bazaar in the capital city of Tehran was closed today, "reportedly in support of demonstrations, as protesters gathered to rally against government policies" in the streets of Iran, according to the Times of Israel. One gathering, outside the central bank in Tehran, was broken up by riot police as protesters were tear-gassed.
The Iranian people are aware of who is responsible for the circumstances that have befallen the Iranian economy as a result of the regime's intransigence and refusal to abide by its international obligations.
David Cohen, the U.S. Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, added today,
It is undeniable that the value of the rial is under pressure and will remain under pressure as long as the sanctions remain in place... And just to be clear about this, the sanctions will remain in place and will intensify so long as Iran refuses to engage meaningfully about its nuclear programme.
Once again, for the fifth time, every House Republican but one chose to stand with big business instead of America's and Israel's security by voting against measures that penalize mining companies that do business with Iran. We're proud of House Democrats for their introduction and near-unanimous support for these crucial measures. But it is surprising and profoundly discouraging that so many pro-Israel Republican members of Congress — members who repeatedly and rightly discuss the importance of stopping Iran's nuclear program — continue to vote against these measures that tighten sanctions. The time is long overdue for House Republicans to quit playing politics, and to start working with Democrats to jointly get serious about stopping Iran.
It has been several weeks since President Barack Obama first increased sanctions on Iran, effectively cutting off Iran's central bank from the global economy. To this point, the evidence is overwhelming that these sanctions have had a strong effect on Iran's economy and government.
Previously a major importer of steel, Iranian steel traders have found their business "grinding to a halt."
Yesterday, new sanctions were imposed on Iran that effectively cut off the country's central bank from the global economy. Following this announcement United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice appeared on MSNBC, where she discussed the sanctions with Andrea Mitchell:
The President has been very clear. The United States will stand with Israel and the rest of the international community to take the steps necessary to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. This is a matter of great importance to our national security, as well as to countries in the region, obviously including Israel. We want to continue to increase the pressure on Iran-the economic pressure-to change its behavior, to change course and come clean about its nuclear program. We have ratcheted up the sanctions at every stage. The United Nations in June 2010 passed the broadest and harshest sanctions to date on Iran and those are having a real bite. We have passed, on a national basis, ever tougher sanctions. The EU has done the same. Countries in the Gulf Region and Asia, Canada, and many others around the world.
And Iran is really starting to feel economic pressure-by their own admission-from the highest levels they're saying that it's crippling and biting. We think that pressure needs to have an opportunity to play its course. As the President has said repeatedly, we have taken no options off the table. But we hope and believe that it might be possible yet for this situation to be addressed through diplomacy. That is our hope. We will continue these efforts while ratcheting up the pressure on Iran and be clear in our determination that they will not gain nuclear weapons.
President Obama issued an executive order yesterday, which was released today, extending sanctions against Iran to include the Iranian Central Bank, a move welcomed by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs for its far reaching impact in isolating the Iranian regime. The sanctions were originally passed by Congress as part of the Department of Defense Reauthorization.
"We thank President Obama and Congress for their commitment to using powerful economic tools in the effort to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Iran has continually threatened the United States and our allies in the region - especially Israel," said JCPA president Rabbi Steve Gutow. "The escalating intensity of the U.S. sanctions regime, which now includes all who do business with Iran's Central Bank, is a signal of our seriousness in stopping their dangerous nuclear weapons program."
"With these sanctions, the US has drawn a clear line. You cannot continue to benefit from the prosperity and security of access to our markets and friendships while contributing to Iran's ability to undermine our fundamental security interests," said JCPA chair Dr. Conrad Giles. "This Congressional legislation and the White House's prompt implementation of it should send a message to Iran and the rest of the international community that when the President says an Iranian nuclear weapon is 'unacceptable,' he means it."
(NJDC) Yesterday, President Barack Obama signed an executive order that effectively cut off Iran's central bank from the global economy-an executive order made public one hour ago. In a letter to Congress, Obama explained that the sanctions are necessary "particularly in light of the deceptive practices of the Central Bank of Iran and other Iranian banks." According to the AP, Obama "said the problems included the hiding transactions of sanctioned parties, the deficiencies of Iran's anti-money laundering regime and the unacceptably high risk posed to the entire international financial system posed by Iran's activities." NJDC President and CEO David A. Harris said:
Sunday's actions by President Barack Obama that were made public today, combined with the Administration's record of gathering global partners to help block a nuclear Iran, should end any doubt about the President's singular commitment to ensuring Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon. Obama's record is crystal clear; he has done more than any president in history to isolate Iran and encourage Iran's leaders to change course. By dramatically severing Iran's economy completely from the United States, the President has taken another powerful step to safeguard America's and Israel's security alike-even as previous steps are yielding results. We thank President Obama for his leadership on this issue and for his actions yesterday; indeed all supporters of a secure Israel and a strong U.S.-Israel relationship owe him a debt of gratitude.
Prior to the Super Bowl, Obama discussed U.S. cooperation with Israel on thwarting Iran's nuclear program in a pre-Super Bowl interview with NBC's Matt Lauer. Obama told Lauer:
[Israel] like us believe[s] that Iran has to stand down on its nuclear weapons program. And we have mobilized the international community in a way that is unprecedented. And they are feeling the pinch. They are feeling the pressure. But they have not taken the step that they need to diplomatically which is to say we will pursue nuclear power, we will not pursue a nuclear weapon. Until they do, I think Israel rightly is going to be very concerned. And we will as well....
We have closer military intelligence consultation than we ever have. My number one priority continues to be the security of the United States but also the security of Israel and we are gonna make sure that we work in lockstep as we work to try to solve this, hopefully diplomatically.
... Our goal is to resolve this issue diplomatically... We're not going to take any options off the table though. ... Our preferred solution here is diplomatic; we're going to keep pushing on that front, but we're not going to take any options off the table. And I've been very clear that we're going to do everything we can to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and creating an arms race-a nuclear arms race-in a volatile region.
Obama said during a segment that aired this morning on NBC's Today Show:
I think we have a very good estimate of when they could potentially achieve breakout capacity ... Do we know all of the dynamics inside of Iran? Absolutely not. ... Iran itself is a lot more divided now than it was. Knowing who is making decisions at any given time inside of Iran is tough. We do have a pretty good read on what is happening with the nuclear program.
Obama also reiterated that all options remain on the table for stopping Iran:
We have done extensive planning over the last several years over our various options in the Gulf. We are prepared to exercise these options should the need arise. But my goal is to resolve this diplomatically mainly because the only way over the long term we can ensure doesn't get a nuclear weapon is by getting them to understand it's not in their interest.
Click here or on the video box below to watch the full interview from this morning.
This weekend, on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, a conference will be held. The gathering, which the University is hosting, has been arranged by a group which is identified by the acronym BDS. BDS refers to the movement dedicated to punishing, vilifying and delegitimizing the State of Israel in three ways.
First, this group encourages "B", boycotting Israeli products.
Second, the group advocates "D", divesting from companies which do business in and with Israel.
And third is "S", the efforts to convince governments around the world to impose sanctions against Israel.
The members of this group are united in their belief that Israel is among the most evil and discriminatory societies in the world. Likened in many ways to South Africa under apartheid, Israel, they claim, is a racist society, denying basic human rights to Arabs living under her jurisdiction. Israel is viewed as a fascist nation, using its great military strength to occupy Palestinian land. And Israel is a country whose claim of sovereignty is suspicious at best. Her claim of independence came as the result of an illegitimate war which resulted in Palestinians being driven from their homeland. The Jewish state, they believe, was established at the expense of the Palestinians. For the members of the BDS movement, the existence of the State of Israel is an unfortunate blemish which afflicts the Middle East, if not the entire world. Unable to destroy or dismantle the Jewish state, the BDS movement and its supporters are committed to punishing and harming the government and the people of Israel for the many crimes against humanity which they have committed. This is the BDS narrative.
Given the fact that a conference, attended by people who see the world in this way and who judge Israel in such odious terms, will be held, what sort of response would be appropriate? One suggestion would be to counter, point by point the various inaccuracies, if not outright lies, which make up the narrative of this group. Another response might be to invoke history in order to provide some balance and perspective to these one-sided invectives. Finally, some who find these claims particularly disturbing and unsettling might be drawn into confrontations and counter-demonstrations. All of these responses, to be sure, are motivated by a desire for fact and truth to triumph over lies and distortions and by a sense of anger and indignation. I understand these responses. But my response is motivated instead by a sense of sorrow, by a sense of sadness at the level of unvarnished prejudice against Israel and my perception of the need to provide a voice of moderation.
I believe that Israel is a wonderful country, the world's only safe haven for the Jewish people. But Israel is also a country established with the intent of creating a society permeated by Jewish values, a society in which individual freedom, dignity and human rights are woven into the fabric of daily life. I understand that Israel is far from perfect. I understand that Israeli society does not always live up to its own stated ideals and that criticism of Israel is often justified. What is not justified, however, is to single out and demonize Israel, and only Israel, as the villain of the Middle East and of the world.
The Israel Program - Washington, Jan. 24 - U.S. President Obama said Tuesday he would take no options off the table to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons but added that a peaceful resolution of the crisis was still possible.
In his State of the Union Address to Congress, Obama took credit for uniting the international community in opposition to the Iranian nuclear program.
The regime is more isolated than ever before; its leaders are faced with crippling sanctions, and as long as they shirk their responsibilities, this pressure will not relent.
Let there be no doubt: America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal. But a peaceful resolution of this issue is still possible, and far better, and if Iran changes course and meets its obligations, it can rejoin the community of nations.
Last month, Obama signed into law new sanctions that target foreign entities that do business with the Central Bank of Iran, which the Islamic Republic uses to process payments for its oil exports. And this week, the European Union approved a ban on oil purchases from Iran due to take effect in July.
Obama only briefly mentioned Israel in his address and did not talk about the Palestinians.
Our iron-clad commitment, and I mean iron clad, to Israel's security has meant the closest military cooperation between our two countries in history.
Focusing largely on domestic policy in a speech that looks ahead to November's presidential election, Obama briefly discussed the uprisings that have swept the Arab world in the past year but broke no new ground.
How this incredible transformation will end remains uncertain. But we have a huge stake in the outcome. And while it is ultimately up to the people of the region to decide their fate, we will advocate for those values that have served our own country so well. We will stand against violence and intimidation. We will stand for the rights and dignity of all human beings - men and women; Christians, Muslims, and Jews.
Reinforcing Obama's words on Iran, Israel's United Nations Ambassador Ron Prosor told the Security Council on Tuesday that the sanctions recently approved by the EU and the United States should be judged by their results.
Each and every member of the United Nations, and particularly of this Council, should lie awake at night thinking about what would happen if the regime in Iran gets hold of the most dangerous weapon on earth. Only the pressure of a united international community can stop Iran from continuing its march toward nuclear weapons.
Iranians ask for new talks as sanctions gain traction
President Barak Obama signed into law a new defense bill that imposes the strictest sanctions yet on Iran. With more pressure on Tehran, Iranians are now calling for new talks on its nuclear program in another apparent attempt to avoid international condemnation of their pursuit of nuclear weapons.
The sanctions can be imposed on institutions dealing with Iran's central bank, the main conduit for Iranian petroleum sales, and would ban the institutions from American markets. They are the result of previous international calls for "crippling sanctions" that would force Iran to finally respect repeated United Nations resolutions demanding a halt to its nuclear program.
In the face of harsh world reaction, Iran also backed down from threats last week that the Iranian military would respond to the sanctions by blocking shipping in the strategic Strait of Hormuz. A senior commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Gen. Masoud Jazayeri, said the time was not right to raise the issue of closing the vital shipping lanes.
The new sanctions also come on the heels of a damning report by the International Atomic Energy Agency in November that indicated Iran was pursuing nuclear weapons.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey told CNN that all options remain on the table for stopping Iran's nuclear weapons program. He said he is "satisfied" that the options being considered will be "executable" if needed. According to CNN:
As Gen. Martin Dempsey toured around the globe over the last eight days, one issue was prominent-Iran's nuclear intentions.
Dempsey, in an exclusive interview with CNN, warned that Iran is playing a dangerous game that could ensnare the Middle East, the United States and others into conflict and a renewed nuclear arms race. From Iraq to Afghanistan, Kuwait to Saudi Arabia, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff heard about growing concerns about Iran's ambitions.
'My biggest worry is they will miscalculate our resolve,' Dempsey said in an interview conducted during a stop in Afghanistan. 'Any miscalculation could mean that we are drawn into conflict, and that would be a tragedy for the region and the world.'...
Behind the scenes Dempsey is quietly leading the ongoing military planning for an attack against Iran's nuclear weapons in the event the president gives the order to do so.
'We are examining a range of options,' Dempsey said, echoing the 'all options on the table' line used by administration officials.
Dempsey, the highest-ranking officer in the U.S. military, said the military options are achievable.
'I am satisfied that the options that we are developing are evolving to a point that they would be executable if necessary,' he said.
Dempsey's remarks coincided with an announcement by the Treasury Department that 10 new Iran shipping companies and a shipping executive were blacklisted through expanded sanctions measures. The Washington Post also reported that the value of Iran's currency has dramatically plunged due to the country's increasing isolation.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told CBS News that a nuclear-armed Iran is "unacceptable" and that the United States "will take whatever steps necessary to stop it." The exchange between Panetta and CBS' Scott Pelley went as follows:
Pelley: If the Israelis decide to launch a military strike to prevent that weapon from being built, what sort of complications does that raise for you?
Panetta: Well, we share the same common concern. The United States does not want Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. That's a red line for us and that's a red line, obviously, for the Israelis. If we have to do it we will deal with it.
Pelley: You just said if we have to do it we will come and do it. What is it?
Panetta: If they proceed and we get intelligence that they are proceeding with developing a nuclear weapon then we will take whatever steps necessary to stop it.
Pelley: Including military steps?
Panetta: There are no options off the table
Pelley: A nuclear weapon in Iran is...
Panetta's statements coincide with recent admissions from Iranian government officials that the country is sustaining damage from the recently-increased sanctions.
I applaud the Treasury and State Department for adopting additional measures against Iran today, but the measures in place are still too timid to cause the Iranians to abandon their nuclear weapons program.
I am pleased the President has adopted an explicit policy providing for sanctions against companies that provide goods, services and technology for — as opposed to investment in — Iran's oil and gas sectors, and to provide for sanctions against those that help Iran's Petrochemical sectors.
While investment was clearly covered by the Iran Sanctions Act, whether the mere sale of goods, services and technology alone is sanctionable was left vague by the statute. This is a change I had urged during the deliberations on the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Accountability and Divestment Act last year, and the President finally addressed it in this new order.
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