NEAR EAST REPORT AIPAC'S BIWEEKLY ON AMERICAN MIDDLE EAST POLICY

Sanctioning Iran’s Central Bank: The Necessary Next Step

An Iran with a nuclear weapon is a direct threat to the United States. Although Tehran has been propagating terror against the United States since the rise of the Islamic regime in 1979, it has recently become more aggressive and belligerent. “The biggest threat to the United States and to our interests and to our friends … has come into focus and it’s Iran,” said a senior U.S. military official earlier this month.

Iran’s elite force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), was involved in a terrorist plot on U.S. soil against the Saudi ambassador. Terrorist groups funded and trained by the IRGC are responsible for the deaths of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Tehran’s proxy army Hizballah has killed the most Americans other than al-Qaeda. It has forces on the ground in Syria, training Assad’s soldiers on how to put down a civilian uprising. In Gaza, Iran-sponsored Hamas has imported advanced weapons from Libya. And Iran’s leadership regularly threatens the United States, Israel and our other allies in the region.

Imagine if we allow this regime to become emboldened by possessing the world’s most dangerous weapon. A regime that acts irresponsibly with its military arsenal would now be able to hold the international community hostage. Nothing could be more serious than allowing the world’s leading state sponsor of terror to add a nuclear weapon to its arsenal. We must not allow that to happen. We must act now to prevent the Islamic regime from continuing down its current path by immediately imposing crippling sanctions against the Central Bank of Iran.

As the International Atomic Energy Agency detailed in its latest report, Iran is rapidly advancing its development of a nuclear weapons capability. The report provided details about Iran’s attempts to model nuclear explosions and test nuclear triggers, as well as its efforts to adapt the country’s long-range missiles to carry a nuclear payload

In order for sanctions to have the desired effect of forcing Iran to change course and stop its illicit nuclear program, they must be in place for a long enough period to cripple the Iranian economy and truly force the regime to choose between a functioning economy and a nuclear weapon.

Sanctioning the Central Bank would seriously cripple Iran’s ability to conduct financial transactions and severely limit the country’s ability to import gasoline or receive proceeds from exporting oil. By imposing these sanctions now, we can apply the most non-lethal force available to us. By waiting to impose these sanctions, or keeping them in our back pocket for a future date, we drastically diminish their overall impact. The closer Iran is to achieving a nuclear weapons capability by the time we impose these sanctions, the weaker will be the pressure on the regime to decide between nukes and economics.

A similar measure has been taken against the Commercial Bank of Syria, which American individuals and companies are barred from doing business with. And while some have raised concerns that such a measure against the Iranian Central Bank would negatively impact oil markets, there are a number of ways to manage any such impact. A grace period for oil-related transactions could be put in place, and other major oil-producing countries could increase their output to offset any reduction of Iranian oil exports.

It is incumbent on Congress to take the bold actions necessary to stop a belligerent Iran. Congress can pass legislation that designates the Central Bank as the terrorist financer that it is. Congress can also make it official U.S. policy to not allow Iran to achieve a nuclear weapons capability. Legislation is currently circulating in both chambers that will achieve both these objectives: H.R. 1905 in the House and S. 1048 in the Senate.

Time is not on our side. Congress and the administration must act quickly to impose and enforce the most stringent sanctions regime ever enacted against Iran. BACK TO TOP