Iran: The real cost of sanctions

We look at the impact of increased sanctions against the Islamic Republic and ask who it really affects.


The United States has unveiled aggressive new sanctions targeting Iran’s currency and car industry that are among the toughest yet. They are aimed at making Iranian money all but unusable outside the country.

Sanctions now make it harder for the compromise we need in a couple of months time when you have a new Iranian president – so they represent an absence of diplomatic nuance within Washington.

Shashank Joshi, research fellow of the Royal United Services Institute


The White House is increasing pressure on Tehran to stop it from developing nuclear weapons and „meet its international obligations“.

The latest measures mark the first time Iran’s currency, the rial, has been directly targeted by sanctions.

The sanctions apply to foreign financial institutions making what is described as significant transactions in the rial, and those holding significant amounts of the currency outside Iran. However, the meaning of ’significant‘ in this case, has not been made clear.

The sanctions also ban the sale of goods and services to Iran’s car industry, the second largest employer after the energy sector.

White House spokesman Jay Carney announced the measures: „The steps taken today are part of President Obama’s commitment to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, by raising the cost of Iran’s defiance of the international community. Even as we intensify our pressure on the Iranian government, we hold the door open to a diplomatic solution. However, Iran must understand that time is not unlimited.“

Tehran has always insisted its programme is for peaceful purposes – for generating power and medical devices; but the US claims Iran is working to develop nuclear weapons. Lies den Rest dieses Beitrags

President Obama Signs Order for New Sanctions Targeting Iranian Currency

By Dan Robinson, VOA

WHITE HOUSE – U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday signed an order imposing additional sanctions on Iran, for the first time directly targeting Iran’s currency, the rial. It’s the latest U.S. step to increase pressure on Iran to change course on its nuclear program.

A woman walking past a currency exchange shop in Tehran

The executive order further intensifies the second track of the Obama administration’s strategy on Iran, which aims to increase the economic costs, and further isolate the Islamic Republic from the global financial system.

It authorizes sanctions on foreign financial institutions that knowingly conduct or facilitate significant transactions for the purchase or sale of the Iranian rial, or that maintain significant accounts outside Iran denominated in the Iranian rial.

Senior administration officials said no specific dollar amount is specified, although regulations contain some guidance on this.

The idea, said one official, is to make the Iranian currency „essentially unusable outside of Iran,“ as part of the overall effort to apply „significant financial pressure“ on the government of Iran.

The order also targets what is called a major revenue generator, Iran’s automotive sector, building on sanctions in legislation President Obama signed this past January. Lies den Rest dieses Beitrags

Executive Order Authorizing the Implementation of Certain Sanctions Set Forth in the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012 (IFCA) and Additional Sanctions With Respect to Iran and Guidance Related to IFCA and the Executive Order

Today the President has signed an Executive Order entitled “Authorizing the Implementation of Certain Sanctions Set Forth in the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012 and Additional Sanctions With Respect to Iran (IFCA)”.  Concurrently with the issuance of the Executive Order, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is posting these frequently asked questions relating to the implementation ofIFCA and the Executive Order.


JP: US senators urge Obama to up Iran sanctions

Members of Congress call to impose greater economic pressure to curtail Iran’s nuclear ambitions, punish human-rights violations.

US Capitol building in Washington D.C.

US Capitol building in Washington D.C. Photo: REUTERS/Jim Bourg

Members of US Congress from both parties on Wednesday urged Obama administration officials to impose greater economic pressure to curtail Iran’s nuclear ambitions and punish its human-rights violations.

Senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and sponsor of several Iran sanctions laws, cited estimates that the global oil market has enough supply to let the US press Iran’s remaining oil buyers to radically curtail their purchases without causing a spike in gasoline prices.

“Oil markets are now and predicted to be loose for the coming year” and “it would seem that this is the time to press our allies to further reduce crude purchase from Iran,” Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, told a committee hearing on preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

The International Energy Agency said Tuesday that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ spare crude oil production capacity will surge 25 percent in the next two years as rising US shale output crimps demand for OPEC’s supplies. Lies den Rest dieses Beitrags

Part I: Is Iran Slowing its Nuclear Program?

Interview with Colin Kahl by Garrett Nada
Colin H. Kahl served as the deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East from 2009 to 2011. He is currently an associate professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Serviceand a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. 

Iran has reportedly slowed down work on its nuclear program. What is actually known?
            The good news is that Tehran has kept its stockpile of 20 percent low-enriched uranium below the amount needed for a bomb. It may have curtailed uranium enrichment in order not to cross Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s red line. He had predicted in September 2012 that Iran would accumulate enough 20 percent low-enriched uranium for one bomb’s worth of material by the spring or summer of 2013. Netanyahu had implied that Israel would consider military action if Iran approached this point.
      Experts estimate that Iran would need about 551 pounds of 20 percent low-enriched uranium to produce a bomb. It reportedly has accumulated about 375 pounds so far, or two-thirds of the quantity needed. Iran could have had more, but it has oxidized part of the stockpile to make fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor. (Once oxidized, the uranium is not easily enriched to weapons-grade levels. It is technically reversible but time-consuming.)
      The bad news is that Iran has been significantly upgrading its ability to enrich uranium. It has installed about 2,000 additional IR-1 centrifuges at its enrichment facility in Natanz, bringing the total number of machines there to around 12,000, according to the U.N. nuclear watchdog in February. The installation of 200 even more advanced IR-2M centrifuges―which would be three to five times more efficient than IR-1 centrifuges―is particularly worrisome. And Iran intends to install about 3,000 of the more advanced models, which could dramatically shorten Iran’s breakout timeline.
            The Iranians may have run into some technical issue with storage or something else that requires them to oxidize part of their uranium stockpile. Another possibility is that Iran’s leaders want to avoid a major international crisis before the June 2013 presidential election. Or they could be intentionally skirting Netanyahu’s red line on the uranium stockpile to ensure Israel does not strike.
Has diplomacy with the international community played a role in Iran’s calculations?
            Tehran is likely to continue its dialogue with the world’s six major powers until its presidential election in June. But it is unlikely to make a major concession before the election for fear of signaling that the regime is weak.
            Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ultimately decides on all nuclear issues. So the winner of the presidential election is not all that important per se. Most Iran analysts expect the next president to be handpicked by the supreme leader from the group loyal to him.
            After the election, the question will be whether Iran is willing to slow down its production of 20 percent low-enriched uranium and shift some of its stockpile abroad in exchange for some sanctions relief. That kind of deal is unlikely to solve the nuclear standoff. But it would put some time back on the clock.
            The United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia, the so-called P5+1, are scheduled to meet with Iran in Kazakhstan again on April 5. During these talks, Tehran may try to weaken consensus among the world’s six major powers, who do not agree on every element of negotiating strategy. But this element of Iran’s diplomatic strategy has only had moderate success so far.
At what point would the United States need to decide whether or not to use force to stop the nuclear program?
            The Obama administration has indicated that it does not share Netanyahu’s definition of the red line for using force. Washington does not appear to consider one bomb’s worth of 20 percent low-enriched uranium alone as casus belli for a military strike. Even aggressive estimates claim Iran would need at least a month to convert further enrich this material to weapons-grade level (uranium enriched above the 90 percent level of purity). Iran would also have to do the enrichment at either Natanz or its second enrichment facility at Fordo, both of which are inspected every week or two by the U.N. nuclear watchdog. Inspectors would almost certainly catch Tehran diverting or enriching the material. Iran knows it would get caught, so the supreme leader is not likely to make such a move even with a sufficient stockpile of 20 percent low-enriched uranium.
            But President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed in March that Iran would need at least one year to produce a nuclear device, which would begin with production of weapons-grade uranium. Tehran would then need several months to actually assemble a crude nuclear device. U.S. officials have suggested that Iran might need another two to four more years to build a nuclear device sophisticated enough to put on the tip of a ballistic missile.

Obama administration officials, from the president on down, have consistently stated they will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon. And the president has made clear that all options, including the use of force, remain on the table to ensure that Iran does not get the bomb. At the same time, Obama clearly prefers a diplomatic solution, believing there is still time to strike a deal. All eyes will be on Almaty to see if the Iranians feel the same way.

Photo Credit: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad via

Source: USIP


John Kerry, Secretary of State: Message to the Iranian People on Nowruz

It’s a privilege to join President Obama in sending warm wishes for health and prosperity to the people of Iran and all those who celebrate Nowruz around the world.

As you gather with your loved ones around the Sofreh Haft-Seen, we are proud to note that many Americans will join you in celebrating Nowruz. This year, we are once again reminded of the outstanding contributions of Iranian-Americans and Iranian students here in the United States, which reflect the rich history of your culture. I am proud of the Iranian-Americans in my own family, and grateful for how they have enriched my life.

Despite the difficult history of the last decades between the United States and Iran, there is an opportunity to work diplomatically to reduce tensions and address the mistrust between our two countries, to the mutual benefit of both of our people. As President Obama has said, we are strongly committed to resolving the differences between Iran and the United States, and continuing to work toward a new day in our relationship. We sincerely hope Iran’s leaders choose to fulfill their obligations to not only the international community but also to their people so that Iran can begin to take its proper place in the community of nations, and the Iranian people can have access to the same opportunities and freedoms enjoyed by others around the world.

Just last month, Americans and Iranians came together to demonstrate outstanding sportsmanship and camaraderie on the wrestling mats in Tehran. On this Nowruz, we would like to reaffirm our desire to continue building strong people-to-people ties to promote greater understanding, peace, and progress.

May this New Year be filled with a renewed sense of hope and a new commitment to peace and fundamental freedoms. On behalf of the United States, we extend our best wishes for a joyous and prosperous New Year. Nowruzetoon Mobarak!

Source: U.S. State Department.

Horst Teltschik: Iran-Politik des Westens von Anfang an falsch

Im Gespräch mit zieht Horst Teltschik, selbst langjähriger Chef der Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz, kritische Bilanz des jüngsten Treffens und analysiert, warum die westliche Iran-Politik von Anfang an falsch war, wie der Westen die Konflikte in der iranischen Führung für sich nutzen soll, warum die EU-Chefdiplomatin Catherine Ashton ihren Job falsch versteht und warum Margaret Thatcher cleverer war als David Cameron.

Zur Person

Horst Teltschik (72) leitete von 1999 bis 2008 die Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz. Zuvor war er außenpolitischer Berater von Bundeskanzler Helmut Kohl und stellvertretender Kanzleramtschef, dann Geschäftsführer der Bertelsmann-Stiftung, Vorstandsmitglied bei BMW und „President Boeing Deutschland“. Weltweit bekannt wurde er als Chef der Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz. Als internationaler Politikberater ist er nach wie vor gefragt.


____________ Soeben erteilte der iranische Ayatollah Ali Khamenei den bilateralen Gesprächen mit den USA eine klare Abfuhr. Dabei war das Angebot dieser bilateralen Gespräche gerade erst in der Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz entstanden. Was soll der Westen von der Reaktion des Ayatollah halten?

TELTSCHIK: Die Absage von Ayatollah Ali Khamenei an bilaterale Gespräche mit den USA ist natürlich mehr als bedauerlich. Seine Aussagen sowie die von Präsident Mahmud Ahmadinedschad diese Woche in Kairo und auch die des iranischen Außenministers Ali Akbar Salehi auf der Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz zeigen erneut, dass es in der iranischen Führung nicht nur erhebliche Meinungsunterschiede gibt, sondern im Vorfeld der Präsidentenwahl härter werdende Machtkämpfe. Wie sollte sich der Westen jetzt verhalten?

TELTSCHIK: Es geht jetzt darum, wer den ersten Zug macht. Der Westen könnte die Konflikte innerhalb der iranischen Führung verstärken und durch eine wohlüberlegte Vorleistung für sich nutzen.

Jedenfalls muss er weiterhin verhandlungsbereit bleiben, denn die Gespräche mit der Internationalen Atomenergieorganisation in Wien (IAEO) gehen weiter, und das Gespräch P5+1 (USA, Russland, China, Großbritannien, Frankreich mit Deutschland) soll nach wie vor stattfinden. Ist 2013 dennoch etwas Bewegung oder so etwas wie ein Durchbruch im iranisch-westlichen Verhältnis zu erwarten?

TELTSCHIK: Der iranische Präsident wird ja demnächst aus seinem Amt ausscheiden. Wir wissen nicht, wer ihm nachfolgt. Vielleicht der jetzige Parlamentspräsident, Ali Laridschani, der war der erste Iraner, der nach München zu meiner Konferenz kam. Das war zwar nicht sehr erhellend. Aber immerhin: Er kam.

Ob Laridschani als neuer Präsident flexibler wäre, wissen wir nicht. Er wird es vorher nicht andeuten. Wenn Syrien für die Iraner wegbricht, sind sie geschwächt. Sie hätten dann keinen politischen Counterpart.

Es hängt auch vom Verhalten der Israelis ab. Wenn die Israelis glauben, sie müssten die Verhandlungen zwischen Iran und den USA nicht abwarten, weil es für sie gefährlich sein könne, wenn sich die Amerikaner auf ein Spiel einlassen, und sie glauben, intervenieren zu müssen, wäre das eine Katastrophe. In diesem Zusammenhang halte ich Benjamin Netanjahu für unberechenbar.

Was US-Präsident Barack Obama machen und ob er sich engagieren wird, weiß man nicht. Wird sich Außenminister John Kerry, wie er es angekündigt hat, um den palästinensisch-isrealischen Konflikt kümmen? Wird er Druck auf Israel ausüben Und wird er von beiden Seiten akzeptiert?

TELTSCHIK: Sobald die Palästinenser das Gefühl haben, Kerry will wirklich eine Zweistaatenlösung, werden sie ihn akzeptieren. Bei Netanjahu bin ich mir nicht sicher. Das ist eine große Unbekannte. Hätte sich der Westen gegenüber Iran anders verhalten sollen?

TELTSCHIK: Ich persönlich bin der Meinung, dass die Politik gegenüber Iran von Anfang an falsch ist. Die Sanktionen haben zwar gewisse Wirkung, aber werden unterlaufen von Indien, von China, von dem einen oder anderen Golfstaat, auch von russischer und von türkischer Seite. Ich hab das schon erlebt, als der Irak mit Sanktionen überzogen war.

Als in Iran die Barbie-Puppen verboten und alle Geschäfte durchsucht wurden, hätte ich Barbie-Puppen abgeworfen und das Land mit Barbie-Puppen überzogen. Ich hätte sie korrumpiert. Die Iraner lieben mehrheitlich den American Way of Life. Dem würde ich auf allen Ebenen entsprechen, aber nicht Sanktionen verhängen.

Auf meiner letzten Sicherheitskonferenz hatte ich sogar eine offizielle Anfrage von Iran, ob ich nicht Mahmud Ahmadinedschad einlade. Der wollte zur Konferenz kommen. Das wäre ja eine Bombe gewesen. Es war mir dann aber doch zu brisant. Aber wer weiß, was er gesagt hätte. Vielleicht hätte es Bewegung gegeben. Doch ich musste befürchten, dass die amerikanische Delegation nicht kommt. In solchen Fragen sollte man ruhig mutiger sein. Sie haben von 1999 bis 2008 die Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz geleitet. Wie lautet Ihr Resümee der 49. Konferenz, die vor wenigen Tagen zu Ende ging? Was hat sie gebracht?

TELTSCHIK: Die Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz hat erneut bewiesen, dass sie die bedeutendste Sicherheitskonferenz weltweit ist. Ihre Bedeutung liegt in zwei Dingen:

Die, die kommen und reden dürfen, nutzen die Konferenz sehr häufig für Botschaften. Jüngstes Beispiel war eben der iranische Außenminister mit der Botschaft, dass sein Land zu bilateralen Gesprächen mit den USA bereit sei. Umgekehrt sagte US-Vizepräsident Joe Biden, dass die Amerikaner zu bilateralen – also nicht nur zu den multilateralen – Gesprächen bereit sind. Für die Weltöffentlichkeit waren das doch klare Botschaften.

Zweitens bietet sich die Chance, dass sich die Parteien, die oft aus politischen Gründen nicht in der Öffentlichkeit aufeinandertreffen wollen, sich auf dieser privaten Konferenz ohne Protokoll und ohne Medien in Suiten treffen und austauschen können. Für die Konfliktparteien können sich aus diesen informellen dann offizielle Gesprächsebenen entwickeln.

Die Konferenz kann keine Konflikte lösen. Das wäre eine Illusion. Aber sie ist eine Art Resonanzboden. Es zeigten sich aber auch Defizite der Konferenz. Ist der Rummel nicht zu groß für fruchtbringenden Meinungsaustausch?

TELTSCHIK: Das größte Problem der Konferenz ist es für den Veranstalter, Nein sagen zu müssen: Nein, Sie können nicht teilnehmen. Oder: Sie können teilnehmen, aber nicht reden. Jeder Präsident, jeder Regierungschef, jeder Minister will reden. Doch bei fünfzig Ministern: No way!

Da geht es meinem Nachfolger Wolfgang Ischinger nicht besser als mir damals. Man sagt zu wenig Nein, man lässt zu viele Reden zu, man hat zu viele Foren, sodass kaum noch Diskussion stattfindet. Wenn jeder auf dem Podium fünf Minuten reden soll, aber zehn Minuten spricht, und wenn die Moderatoren – Ischinger moderiert ja nicht selbst, sondern lässt moderieren – einleitend selber 10, 15 Minuten reden, dann bleibt keine Zeit für Diskussion. Dann gibt es vielleicht noch ein, zwei schriftliche Fragen, bei denen man nicht einmal mehr den Frager erlebt. Ich habe diese Erfahrungen anfangs auch gemacht. Da muss man daraus lernen.

Ferner: Die Konferenz muss natürlich immer die aktuellen Themen aufgreifen. Es gibt Standardthemen, die zur Tradition gehören. Die transatlantischen Beziehungen müssen immer auf der Agenda stehen. Aktuelle Themen waren diesmal Mali und natürlich Syrien und Iran.

Aus Syrien kam ein Führer der Opposition, der sehr vage war in seinen Aussagen. Da wäre es gut gewesen, wenn man hätte nachfragen können: Wer seid ihr denn, wenn Baschar al-Assad stürzt? Was vertritt ihr eigentlich?

Auch Sergei Lawrow, der russiche Außenminister, war viel zu vage. Lehnt jeden Eingriff ab. Aber was ist denn die Alternative? Auch da gab es keine Möglichkeit nachzufragen.

Das Thema Syrien war inhaltlich jedenfalls nicht erleuchtend.




Prospects for Progress at New Talks

Bruce Riedel

The world’s six major powers and Iran are due to hold the fourth round of talks in Kazakhstan on February 25. What has to happen to make these talks a success—even if it just means enough to hold a fifth round?
            Iran would need to announce a tangible reversal of its enrichment program for the talks to be a success. But, for those who believe like Churchill that “to jaw, jaw” is always better than “to war, war,” agreeing to a fifth round of talks would be good enough.

How important is Iran in John Kerry’s first year as secretary of stateand why?

      Iran is certain to be a central issue on Secretary of State Kerry’s agenda. The United States is reaching the moment of truth–one way or another–on Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability. Iran’s technological capacity is getting to a critical point.
      On the other hand, Kerry is likely to face a large number of burning crises when he takes office. The conflict in Syria will be a pressing one. There are serious security issues in Afghanistan and Pakistan as well. Tensions between North and South Korea could boil over. The territorial dispute between China and Japan could intensify. So Kerry’s hands will be more than full. But Iran will be high on his agenda.
What factors might encourage a meaningful deal on the nuclear issue?
            The growing impact of economic sanctions is the main factor encouraging Iran to make a deal. The Iranians are clearly hurting as sanctions are causing serious distress. But the impact of sanctions may not be a deciding factor in Tehran’s final analysis. Iran has been under U.S. sanctions for three decades. It also survived high inflation and austerity during the 1980-1988 war with Iraq. Other countries have endured sanctions for long periods as well.
            Maybe the country will suffer so badly economically that the leadership has no choice but to cry uncle. Iran’s Central Bank reported that the annual inflation rate hit 27.4 percent at the end of 2012, one of the highest official levels ever reported in Iran. And the actual rate could be three or four times higher than the official figure.
What are the obstacles to diplomacy for Iran?
            The main obstacle to diplomacy is Iran’s refusal to give up, in any meaningful way, the capacity to build a nuclear weapon. The “capacity” to build a weapon is the knowledge of how to make and assemble the disparate parts and to have all the raw material—which differs from actually building a weapon.
            The kinds of deals that would be acceptable to Washington and Jerusalem–and London, Paris and others–would include inspection regimes and safekeeping mechanisms. This monitoring would make it hard—if not impossible—for Iran to acquire the capacity to build a future weapon. Such deals would have no value for the Islamic Republic.
            The intentions of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei or those around him are unknown. The U.S. intelligence community seems to have concluded that Tehran has not made the final decision to build a bomb. And I think there is serious reason to believe that they haven’t made a final irrevocable decision.
            But my estimate is the Iranians are unlikely to give up the capacity to produce a weapon in short order because they probably believe they need one. Almost any Iranian national security advisor would probably argue that a nuclear weapons capability is the only guarantor of independence and deterrence. Clearly Iran lives in a dangerous neighborhood, surrounded by many enemies prepared to act against it. So how could Iran prevent them from taking military action? The track record of the past decade is clear. If you have nuclear weapons, you have deterrence.  Pakistan has them and, they deter India. Afghanistan and Iraq did not, and America invaded. Libya gave up its nuclear capability and was invaded.
            Arguments about whether or not Tehran is prepared to stop short of building or testing a bomb are intense and important. But the Iranians may decide that the only way to ensure their retention of that capacity is to build a bomb.
What are the obstacles to diplomacy for the United States?
            In the end, war is too costly, unpredictable and dangerous to be a practical option. And diplomacy shows no signs of imminent success.
            So the real challenge is that Kerry and Obama face their own policy trap—and the absence of other alternatives. They have said that containing a nuclear Iran is not an option—and is off the table. So if diplomacy fails, war is the only alternative. That stark choice is a mistake.
            But there is a good chance that Kerry and Obama will bail themselves out of this trap by reopening the door to containment, although they would probably call it something else.
Is there a framework of a viable deal emerging?
            The United States should make every effort to find a diplomatic solution, even if chances are slim. But I am pessimistic about a viable deal emerging. I think Iran wants to have a nuclear weapons capability, which is very understandable given events of the last decade in Iran’s part of the world. Countries that do not have a nuclear weapons capability get invaded by the United States and its allies—from Afghanistan to Iraq and Libya. Countries with the capability do not get invaded, most notably Pakistan but also North Korea.
            This strategic lesson has long been apparent to the Iranians. A nuclear weapon is the only real assurance of their independence and territorial integrity. The United States cannot escape the history of the last decade. All the well-meaning promises of statesman like John Kerry and Barack Obama are unlikely to convince the Iranians that they are better off in terms of their long-term security without a nuclear weapons capability.
Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center, was special assistant to the president and senior director for Near East and South Asian Affairs at the National Security Council during the Clinton administration.


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