U.S. Seeks More Ways to Isolate Iran - U.S. Treasury
The U.S. is seeking additional ways to isolate Iran from international finance to counter its nuclear weapons program, said David Cohen, U.S. Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, Bloomberg reported.
"We will continue to identify ways to isolate Iran from the international financial system," Cohen said today in a written testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington. "We will continue to target Iran's primary sources of export revenue. In addition to oil and petroleum products, Iran exports substantial volumes of petrochemicals."
While Iranian officials say their country's nuclear program is for energy and medical research, Israel and the U.S. believe Iran may be secretly trying to develop a nuclear weapons capability. To prevent that, the two nations have threatened military strikes and further economic isolation.
"We're making clear that Iran's international legitimacy and the end to their isolation depends on the choice Iran's leaders are facing right now: change course, or continue to pay the cost of intransigence," Wendy Sherman, under secretary of State for political affairs, told the panel.
Sanctions punishing Iran for its nuclear program include curbs on financial transactions and crude oil exports, the country's main source of revenue. Sherman said President Barack Obama's administration is looking at possible sanctions on additional sectors of Iran's economy.
The Treasury today identified two companies it said were linked to Iran's efforts to evade international sanctions. Al Hilal Exchange and Al Fida International General Trading, both based in the United Arab Emirates, were designated for providing financial services to Iranian banks, the Treasury said in a statement today in Washington.
The U.S. law targeting Iranian oil sales, signed by Obama in December 2011, and the European Union's ban of the import of oil into Europe, effective in mid-2012, helped cut Iran's crude oil and condensate exports by about 1.3 million barrels a day, or about 50 percent, by early 2013, Cohen said today. Iran's petrochemical exports have also been hit, dropping by at least 7.6 percent in 2012, he said.
Iran's currency has depreciated by more than 50 percent over the past 12 months and the official inflation rate is 32.2 percent, Sherman told the panel.
"Put simply, the Iranian economy is in a downward spiral with no prospect for near-term relief," Sherman said in written testimony submitted to the committee.
The U.S. is focused on Iranian "revenue, reserves and rial," Cohen said. "Our assessment is that the Iranian economy is not flourishing in any respect."
A group of U.S. lawmakers is proposing to intensify the economic pressure on Iran over its disputed nuclear program by drafting the harshest penalties to date on a nation whose income from oil exports has been cut in half by sanctions since 2011.