The Corner

Why Won’t Obama Sanction Iran’s Financial Lifeblood?

Details of this week’s International Atomic Energy Agency report have begun to leak, and they reveal new evidence that Iran is building a nuclear weapon.

Yet in spite of the IAEA’s discoveries — which were undoubtedly already known to him — President Obama has announced his decision not to impose sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran.

Obama reached this decision only weeks after the White House revealed an Iranian plot to murder the Saudi ambassador to the United States in a high-end Washington restaurant, an attack that would likely have killed dozens of Americans.

The Islamic Republic depends on the CBI for its energy transactions, which provide the money it needs to finance its nuclear operations and its terrorist proxies Hamas and Hezbollah.

After all of Iran’s violations with respect to nuclear weapons, terrorism, and human rights, it simply defies logic that Obama would decline to sanction the CBI. The U.S. and its allies have already sanctioned Iran’s largest banks — Melli and Saderat — for their connections to Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile activities, and both banks are CBI subsidiaries.

Meanwhile, Iran continues to execute pro-democracy activists and minorities, including perhaps the evangelical pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who faces a choice between converting to Islam or the death penalty.

In 2009, Iranian authorities arrested Nadarkhani, now 34, for questioning compulsory Islamic education for his children, and seeking to register a home-based church. A star-chamber court sentenced him to death in 2010. While Tehran has apparently commuted the death sentence of a woman sentenced to stoning for adultery, what reason would a nuclear-armed Iran have to pay heed to the pressures of international human-rights groups? Groups like Amnesty International have failed to make Iran’s nuclear program a cornerstone of their human-rights strategy in the Mideast.

In 2007, President George W. Bush sanctioned Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a global terrorist entity. The IRGC is believed to be responsible for the plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington. If President Obama is serious about protecting the U.S. homeland from acts of terrorism, encouraging the spread of democracy across the Middle East, and denying Iran a nuclear weapon, he should sanction the Central Bank of Iran, and convince U.S. allies to follow suit. The European Union should certainly sanction the IRGC immediately.

As the IAEA makes clear, Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon lies just around the corner. That milestone marks a grave danger to the security of the United States and the free world. How will President Obama confront it?

— Benjamin Weinthal is a Berlin-based investigative journalist and research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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