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No Substitute For Sanctions

Jonathan Schanzer
SOURCEFrum Forum

The Iranian Government’s instruments of financial leverage and soft power have taken a hit in the month of November.

On November 4, analyst Avi Jorisch revealed in the Wall Street Journal that Iran appears to be using a United Nations office headquartered in Tehran to skirt U.S. sanctions. Jorisch writes that Iran appears to be using the Asian Clearing Union “to route over $13 billion overseas in 2008 and over $5.6 billion so far in 2009 to pay for many of its goods and services.” Presumably, the White House, the U.S. Treasury, and international anti-money laundering agencies have since chased down this lead.

A week later, on November 12, the federal government seized assets belonging to the Alavi Foundation and the Assa Corporation, including a Manhattan skyscraper and four mosques, citing alleged links to the Iranian government. An amended civil complaint alleges that the Alavi Foundation provided services to the Iranian government and transferred money to Bank Melli, Iran’s largest state-owned financial entity.

The next day, on November 13, 2009, Eli Lake of the Washington Times revealed that the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) may be operating as an undeclared lobby and may be guilty of violating tax laws, the Foreign Agents Registration Act, and lobbying disclosure laws.

Now, the New York Post appears to have delivered another blow to the aforementioned Alavi Foundation. Apparently, it has gifted “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to the Middle Eastern and Persian studies programs at Columbia and Rutgers universities, in an attempt to influence their programs. For example, the Alavi Foundation reportedly donated $100,000 to Columbia after the university agreed to host Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2007.

Iran may have lost a few battles this month, but the mullahs are still winning the war. Tehran continues to march toward its goal of attaining a nuclear weapon. Indeed, the Iranians recently rejected a deal brokered by the United Nations whereby Tehran would have shipped about 70 percent of its low-enriched uranium stockpile to Russia and France to be processed for a research reactor. The deal might have delayed Iran’s ability to build a nuclear bomb by about a year.

In the end, the recent blows to Iranian infrastructure in the United States are no substitute for imposing crippling sanctions, such as the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act. Congress and some of America’s allies are ready to impose these measures. The White House, however, continues to delay.