No, the U.S. Won’t Impose Sanctions on Israel

The U.S. is not going to impose sanctions on Israel.

You would not believe the nonsense I get in my inbox. The question I ask myself is whether I should write about it, thus giving it a modicum of credence and potentially spreading the rumor further, or whether to ignore it, letting the misinformation stand uncorrected. But since we are going to see a lot of nonsense between now and Israel’s upcoming elections, let us see what we can learn. [Read more…]

House Passes Tough Bipartisan Iran Sanctions Bill

(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.  
Jewish Council for Public Affairs

The best response to Iran’s relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons capability is further isolation from the international community, which is threatened by this program,” said JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow. “The sanctions legislation overwhelmingly passed yesterday sends a strong message to the Teheran regime that continues its involvement with global terror and its support for the brutal Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. We applaud the House action and will encourage expeditious passage of a parallel measure in the U.S. Senate.

Of course, sanctions are merely a means to an end, and we support the administration’s ongoing efforts to resolve this issue through diplomacy if possible,” said JCPA Chair Larry Gold. “While Iran’s new President-elect remains untested – and the posture of the Supreme Leader appears to remain unchanged – the U.S. and international community are well served by maintaining economic pressures. We hope that Iran’s leaders will choose the welfare of their people over this misguided and dangerous pursuit of nuclear weapons capability.

Congressman Peter Roskam (R-IL)

I voted in favor of this critical new round of sanctions because we simply cannot tolerate a nuclear Iran. The overwhelming bipartisan support for this bill reaffirms Congress’ commitment to preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability. While the United States should continue to utilize and exhaust diplomatic channels, we must continue to implement and enforce crippling economic sanctions and reserve the right to use military force if necessary. Our policy is one of prevention, not containment, and I will continue to support legislation aimed to curbing Iran’s dangerous nuclear program.

Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA)

Today the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act, bipartisan legislation introduced by Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) and House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY) in February 2013, passed the House of Representatives.  

“Iran’s recent election of a so-called ‘moderate’ President has done nothing to change two important facts:  Iran is still pursuing nuclear weapons capability, and the Supreme Leader is still the leader and decision-maker of Iran’s military and nuclear program,” said Congressman Sherman following the vote. “I am urging my Senate colleagues to pass this legislation and send it to the President for his signature.”

The Nuclear Iran Prevention Act expands current sanctions against the Central Bank of Iran for oil purchases and third party transfers of Iranian crude oil, which have sometimes allowed Iran to side-step sanctions.

On May 22, 2013, the House Foreign Affairs Committee marked up the new sanctions bill and passed it unanimously.  Congressman Sherman contributed provisions through four amendments that were adopted unanimously that:

  • Add the knowing transfer of uranium mining and milling equipment to Iran to current sanctions law.
    Require a certification from prospective federal contractors that they (and affiliates) conduct no business with Iran that is sanctionable under this bill.
  • Expand sanctions on individuals who transfer technology used to repress dissidents in Iran by imposing harsher sanctions beyond just government procurement contract prohibitions and expanding the scope of sanctions to include affiliates of these individuals.
  • Strengthen current nonproliferation law under which the President must designate countries that allow a substantial diversion of certain sensitive goods, services, or technologies to Iran as “Destinations of Diversion Concern” (DDC) – and authorize harsher sanctions on such countries.
  • “This bipartisan Iran sanctions bill will broaden economic sanctions, strengthen human rights sanctions, and increase oversight of the enforcement of current sanctions,” Sherman added.

Reuters: US Sanctions Cut Off Turkey-Iran Gold Trade


Bidboland gas refinery in Aghajary

— by Daniel Ensign

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.

Anti-Israel Sentiment on Campus Goes Trendy

— by Joshua Berkman

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).

More after the jump.
The most recent round of anti-Israel activism, aimed at delegitimizing the Jewish State of Israel, was triggered by Israeli military strikes on terrorist infrastructure in Gaza. According to the Anti-Defamation League, there were more than 100 reported anti-Israel demonstrations on campus in November, attracting thousands of college students nationwide. In response, a cadre of 56 Jewish Agency Israel Fellows to Hillel, serving 70 campuses, successfully mobilized groups of Jewish students, many of whom were not previously vocal Israel advocates.

Jewish Agency Israel Fellows to Hillel are young Israelis in their twenties who, after serving in the army, come to the United States and spend up to three years on college campuses to rally support for Israel, foster discussion with other religious groups on campus, and recruit participants for overseas programs in Israel, such as Birthright Israel and Masa Israel Journey and help Jewish students fend off anti-Israel attacks,.  The Israel Fellows program is a partnership between Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life and The Jewish Agency.

Now, more than ever, Jewish Agency Israel Fellows play a critical role in maintaining a campus atmosphere that enables students from a range of different backgrounds to openly engage in civil dialogue about Israel, and support the United States’ closest ally in the Middle East, namely Israel. .Just as the Vietnam War became the principal cause around which campus radicals rallied in the 1960s, the existence of a sovereign and secure Jewish state — in the Jewish ancestral homeland — has increasingly offended the sensibilities of the campus Left. Leading figures in the Jewish community see the problem as growing.

“Anti-Israel student groups will likely seek to capitalize on the momentum surrounding the Gaza conflict by pushing with renewed intensity their anti-Israel tactics and campaigns,” ADL National Director Abraham Foxman said in a recent statement.

This has created an environment where many Jewish students, that have not been educated about Israel, feel social pressure to ‘play down’ their Judaism and Zionism rather than assert their identity proudly as their parents and grandparents did. In fact, prior to the latest round of violence in Gaza, the environment on a number of campuses – had become hostile for many Jewish students- especially those in coastal cities – The past year alone saw more than 700 anti-Israel protests on North American campuses. Some of the higher-profile anti-Israel campus episodes include:

At Columbia University, a Middle Eastern Studies professor told a Jewish student in front of a lecture hall full of students that she couldn’t have ancestral ties to Israel because of her green eyes. Also, a professor asked an Israeli student, “How many Palestinians have you killed?”

At UC-Berkeley, a group of faculty and students launched “Apartheid Week”, a program that has gained traction nationwide and which features students who dress in army fatigues, carry mock assault weapons and stage checkpoints to block and intimidate students on their way to class. In 2010 a female student reported that she was assaulted by an anti-Israel check-point demonstrator who rammed a shopping cart into her.

At Florida Atlantic University last year, local members of the group “Students for Justice in Palestine” posted mock eviction notices  on the doors of more than 200 students  in a dorm known for its high concentration of Jewish students.

At UC-Davis last month, a group of anti-Israel protesters took over an administration building and held discussion groups that linked Zionists with perpetrators of genocide.

At UC-Irvine — the same campus where Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. was aggressively and relentlessly taunted during a lecture — the Student Senate unanimously passed a BDS resolution Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, was aggressively and relentlessly taunted during a lecture.
From their time on campus, many Israel Fellows have found that Jewish students are uncomfortable planning and participating in visible, pro-Israel rallies and instead choose to engage in more substantive forms of activism. Last year, when the University of Pennsylvania hosted a conference for the national BDS movement, Jewish students took the opportunity to dramatically increase and deepen the pro-Israel campus coalition. Tactics involved thousands of students and a semester of programs and activities that increased pro-Israel sentiment on campus through deep and sophisticated conversations. At the University of Michigan, students lobbied influential professors to vocally support Israel and cosponsored an event to showcase Artists for Israel.  At Baruch College, a young woman responded to what was “a battle of fliers” on campus by organizing a discussion forum that was cosponsored by Muslim student groups.

“The Israel Fellows, other Hillel staff and student leadership took the opportunity to model a different kind of activism – one that dramatically helps Jews and non-Jews to help better understand Israel and communicate positive messages,” said Abi Dauber Sterne Hillel’s vice president for global Jewish experience.

According to Ronen Weiss, the Jewish Agency’s National emissary to Hillel, these types of nuanced pro-Israel activities can yield long-term value and are taken seriously by the community at large.  That said, as the pressure against Israel’s legitimacy mounts, Weiss sees an urgent need for more Israel Fellows on more college campuses to stem the tide.

“It is important that Jewish students show public solidarity, Israel Fellows are focused on the outcomes of connecting students with a deep and lasting relationship with the people, land and state of Israel, rather than on publicity stunts,” Weiss said. “We need to empower even more students nationwide to hold meaningful dialogues about Israel in dorms and cafeterias, and encourage pro-Israel representation in student governments and among campus speakers.”

Ultimately, what is at stake is securing the Jewish future and a strong Israel.  As the battle for Israel’s legitimacy heats up on college campuses, Israel Fellows are standing at the ready.

Politifact Gives Thumbs Down On Paul Ryan’s Iran Sanction Claims

— by David Streeter

Politifact’s Ruling (emphasis added):

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.

 

Massive Setbacks to Iranian Nuclear Program

I. Intelligence Coup

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.

III. Hyperinflation

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.


Iran Economy on “Verge of Collapse”


Facing Domestic Unrest as Sanctions Bite

— Sari Weintraub

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 fallout from the plummeting economy shows that U.S. sanctions are having their intended effect, according to White House spokesman Jay Carney, who said Tuesday,

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.

The past week shows that sanctions against Iran have been biting hard, and there is more to come: the Obama administration authorized another round of restrictions last week.

House GOP Fifth Vote Against Strengthening Iran Sanctions

— David A. Harris

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.
More information about Republicans voting against measures to strengthen Iran sanctions is available here.  

Iran Sanctions About to Increase

— by Max Samis

The Los Angeles Times reported that the multilateral sanctions led by President Barack Obama are set to increase this weekend.

Extract from Los Angeles Times follows the jump.
Over the next four days, Western governments will launch their toughest sanctions yet against Iran. The steps are designed to eviscerate the oil-based economy, and to test Tehran’s determination to keep enriching uranium in defiance of United Nations resolutions.

The United States and European Union will impose an oil embargo, as well as a ban on tanker insurance and other measures that analysts say could slash Iran’s foreign sales of oil – its largest source of revenue – by more than half.

That would cost Iran about $4 billion a month, experts say, a substantial amount given the country’s estimated foreign currency reserves of $60 billion to $100 billion.

Western governments hope the added pressure will help break the deadlock in a decade-old struggle to persuade Iran to accept limits on nuclear development – before it completes research that many nations fear is aimed at learning how to build a nuclear weapon.

In three rounds of negotiations this year, Iranian officials showed little inclination to compromise. They insist their nation’s nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

Western officials and analysts say Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei may reconsider if the tightening sanctions stir unhappiness among merchants and consumers. Perhaps more important will be the squeeze on businesses and industries controlled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, a key part of the power structure that is influential with Khamenei.

‘As time passes and dollars are lost, inevitably ordinary Iranians are going to ask the question, “Is it worth it?”‘ said Cliff Kupchan, a former State Department official now at the Eurasia Group consulting firm in Washington.

Western governments appear prepared to let the sanctions build through the summer, and even increase the pressure. In Washington, Congress is finishing legislation that would tighten sanctions further on Iran’s oil sector.

Increased Sanctions Continue to Pressure Iran’s Economy

— Max Samis

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.”

More after the jump.
According to Reuters:

Iranian buyers cannot obtain dollars or euros, forcing them to offer letters of credit in alternative currencies such as the Indian rupee, Korean won and Russian rubles.

Most steel traders, wary of currency risk and taxation issues, are not willing to accept this form of payment.

‘Now you can really feel the effects of the sanctions imposed by the U.S. and Europe…It is very difficult to do any business with Iran at the moment,’ a steel trader at a Swiss metals trading house said.

Perhaps even more importantly, the Iranian oil flow has taken a massive hit. Reuters wrote:

Iran could be forced to place unsold barrels into floating storage or even shut in production in the second half of this year, the IEA said on Friday in its monthly Oil Market Report.

‘International sanctions targeting Iran’s existing oil exports do not come into effect until July 1, but they are already having an impact on crude trade flows in Europe, Asia and the Middle East,’ it said.

‘Although there are five months before restrictions on existing contracts take effect, European customers have already curtailed imports of Iranian crude and Asian buyers are lining up alternative sources of supply,’ the IEA said, adding that European customers were likely to look to Russia, Iraq and Saudi Arabia for replacement barrels.

Bloomberg added that owners of over 100 supertankers have now said they will stop loading oil supplies from Iran.

In an interview with Haaretz, Dennis Ross, Obama’s former Middle East advisor, stated that ‘The fact is [Iran’s] currency has devalued by half in the last six weeks… I’d say sanctions are working, if that’s the case.’ Haaretz wrote:

These sanctions, Ross said, are the crippling sanctions Israel has called for, and can affect Iran’s behavior. When the Iranians feel they are under sufficient pressure, they look for a way to reduce it, Ross said, and right now they are under pressure they have not been under before. ‘It’s not an accident that suddenly they want to meet with the P5 +1,’ Ross said, referring to the forum of five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany.

Ross also stated his belief that sanctions are forcing Iran to the negotiating table in an op-ed in The New York Times. Ross wrote:

Iran cannot do business with or obtain credit from any reputable international bank, nor can it easily insure its ships or find energy investors. According to Iran’s oil ministry, the energy sector needs more than $100 billion in investments to revitalize its aging infrastructure; it now faces a severe shortfall.

New American penalties on Iran’s central bank and those doing business with it have helped trigger an enormous currency devaluation. In the last six weeks, the Iranian rial has declined dramatically against the dollar, adding to the economic woes Iran is now confronting…

Now, with Iran feeling the pressure, its leaders suddenly seem prepared to talk. Of course, Iran’s government might try to draw out talks while pursuing their nuclear program. But if that is their strategy, they will face even more onerous pressures, when a planned European boycott of their oil begins on July 1.

As sanctions continue to take effect, international pressure will only continue to increase against Iran’s nuclear program.