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Effective Policy that Keeps Iran in Check

Author: Rachel L. Loeffler, International Affairs Fellow, 2007-2008
December 18, 2007
Philadelphia Inquirer


If the focus on Iran remains mired in the recent National Intelligence Estimate, the world will be missing the most important headline yet.

To many people, America’s Iran policy comes down to a choice between appeasement and confrontation, flailing diplomacy or military threats. But there is a third route that is generating enormous pressure: Global financial sanctions have set off a debilitating process of isolation that has engulfed Iran in a costly battle for international financial access.

Now is the time to ratchet the pressure up a notch.

The financial firestorm began in September 2006, when the United States took the unprecedented step of cutting off one of Iran’s largest banks—Bank Saderat—from the American financial system. Over the next 13 months, the United States systematically froze the assets of Iran’s four most significant banks and severed them from any remaining access to New York, a financial nerve center of the global economy.

This wasn’t out of financial spite. It turns out that Iranian banks are profoundly entangled in Iran’s weapons proliferation and terrorist agendas. According to information from the U.S. Treasury Department, Bank Melli—Iran’s largest bank—has not only provided financial services on behalf of Iran’s nuclear and missile industries, but has also facilitated the transfer of $100 million to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Force - the terrorist arm of Iran’s elite military apparatus.

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