October 12th, 2011
08:18 PM ET

The loose noose of Iran sanctions

By Jill Dougherty

Intent on punishing Iran for a brazen alleged plot to kill the Saudi ambassador on U.S. soil, the Obama administration is in diplomatic overdrive, urging countries around the world to cut whatever ties they still have with Tehran and "isolate" it from the international community.

"We will work with our international partners to increase Iran's isolation and the pressure on its government. And we call upon other nations to join us in condemning this threat to international peace and security," a steely Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday.

Soon after American authorities detailed the allegations and tied the plot to elements of Iran's military, the Treasury Department invoked new economic sanctions against top members of the Quds Force, the part of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps that allegedly directed the assassination plot. Treasury says a top member of the Quds approved up to $5 million to pay for the plot.

The department followed that move Wednesday with an announcement that it was designating an Iranian airline company that it says transports weapons and funds for the Quds Force.

But the administration's headlong press for more sanctions raises a question: If sanctions work, why didn't they stop Iran from allegedly making a down payment on the plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador?

The Justice Department complaint alleged that one of the key plotters, Manssor Arbabsiar, a naturalized U.S. citizen currently in U.S. custody, was able to transfer a total of $100,000 from Iran to a financial institution in an unnamed country. From there, according to the complaint, the money moved to a bank in New York and, finally, into an account secretly monitored by the FBI.

One expert on Iran told CNN that could be done despite sanctions.

"There are banking sanctions in place against Iran and also very broad sanctions. You can use other fund companies and individuals to transfer relatively small sums of money to the United States," Alireza Nader of the RAND Corporation said.

David Cohen, Treasury's under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, speaking with CNN's Wolf Blitzer on "The Situation Room," admitted that, by laundering money through a third country, Iran was able to circumvent existing sanctions.

"The particular transmission network is something we are continuing to unravel," Cohen said.

A Treasury Department official, not authorized to speak on the record, told CNN the Treasury Department does not believe the third-country bank knew it was dealing with money for an assassination plot.

On "The Situation Room," Cohen raised a red flag for financial institutions that still are dealing with Iran: "It really points up the risk that any bank that is involved in financial transactions with Iran runs," he said. "If you are going to expose yourself to the Iranian financial market you can find yourself unwittingly involved in Iranian behavior, whether it's state-sponsored terrorism or support for their nuclear program or other sorts of nefarious behavior."

That's a message the Obama administration is driving home to other countries. It wants countries that already have sanctions against Iran to vigorously enforce them.

Wednesday morning, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns briefed the Washington diplomatic corps at the State Department, telling ambassadors from countries around the world details of the alleged plot and urging them to join the United States in increasing pressure on Iran.
Secretary Clinton worked the phones, talking with foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Russia.

The administration is holding classified briefings with the Congress.

Thursday, Wendy Sherman, under secretary of state for political affairs, the number three official at the State Department, will be on Capitol Hill.

At the United Nations, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice is consulting individually with all members of the Security Council.

U.S. Ambassadors around the world have been directed to brief the governments of the countries in which they are stationed about the alleged plot and to urge those governments to join the United States to turn the screws on Iran.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters Wednesday, "We believe that all countries should look hard at how they can tighten sanctions, how they can enforce sanctions and whether sanctions are well-enforced."

soundoff (46 Responses)
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  2. tom

    none of this would be happening if the obama administration hadn't sold the iranian opposition movement down the river. not supporting them was just as big a mistake as pushing mubarak under the bus.

    betraying your friends and supporting your enemies is not the best way to advance your interests.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:06 am | Reply
  3. Sassan

    There is no doubt to the accuracy of this case. Remember, there are multiple nations involved in uncovering this plot including Mexico. There was money transfer involved in the amount of over $100k and more was on the way. The conversations have been recorded along with communications documented which show the money transfer directly out of Iran. This guy was just in year as of recently and most likely he himself is not a radical but he was simply money hungry and had no ethics.. supposedly he has already confessed on his own will and volition and admitted of high levels of Iranian government contact and coordination.. the evidence will come out at trial but there is no doubt in my mind that this is a slam-dunk case and that the Islamic Republic was involved; the question is, how far up the food chain does it go? Remember, this regime murdered dissidents overseas all throughout Europe until the 90's. Just last year, a plot of assassination was unraveled in which they were targeting political scientist/commentator/writer Nourizadeh in Los Angeles/London – this is just the beginning. This regime envisions global jihad through death, havoc, and destruction as accorded by the Hadith and their "hidden imam" ideology. This regime must under no circumstances be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. The funny thing is to watch sadly so-called "experts" trying to find "logic and rationality" behind the actions of the regime. By definition, these religious maniacs don't have any reason or common sense rationality. We cannot judge them based on our level of rationality and humanity. Ironically, it was former CIA/Revolutionary Guards spy Reza Kahlili who months ago wrote and started to speak on the fact that this regime would start to export their terror by potentially hiring Mexican drug cartels as well as South American connections; in addition, he noted the threat of assassinations of diplomats and other high ranking officials of the Saudi government by the Islamic Republic as fatwas has been issued and threats have been targeted against members of the Saudi Royal family; people think this is so "unexpected" but I find it a masterful plot which if it had been successful would have allowed the regime to deny complicity.

    October 13, 2011 at 4:14 am | Reply
  4. Andy

    Iran is working on a death ray with hamas and hezbollah and kim il dung and china and russia and they all hate us cos they're jealous and hate freedom and pizza and and and so there.....

    October 13, 2011 at 3:43 am | Reply
  5. Rob

    This sounds like quite a bit of hogwash if you ask me. We all know there are certain people in government, with limited critical thinking skills, that are out to prove a point at almost any cost.

    Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, said no explosives were actually placed and no one was in any danger because of the informant's cooperation with authorities. So with that said, there was no weapon, there was no danger, there was nothing but something, someone thought somewhere that may or may not have happened. As far as I know, we've got someone possibly just trying to save his own skin.

    Basically, a few people are trying to convince you that something DID take place when in fact, there was nothing that actually happened. Some people will never forget 9/11 but I will never forget the lies that we were told about the "WMD's" and what we've done wrong over the last decade. This is what bush would call a "Pre-Emptive Strike" and we all know how RELIABLE that was right? ..based on informants no doubt? This is what's happening here folks. Let's start being smart about these kind of things. First it was the assassination of a U.S. citizen "Al-Awlaki" and now we're willing to make all these types decisions ON THE SPOT because of an "informant"? I'm with anyone and everyone who says "let's go after the bad guys" BUT we need to do it with Due Process, Facts, and the court system and stop jumping on the scare tactic band wagon as displayed here.

    October 13, 2011 at 3:32 am | Reply
  6. Hope for America

    Really? Does the Washington war machine really think Americans are going to buy this one. It sounds like the seed is being planted for future war(s). I love how the State Department is accusing Iran of state-sponsored terrorism when it's been sponsoring terrorist activities inside Iran and the region for decades. I'm surprised Hugo Chavez wasn't included in the so called plot. The only hope this country has for a future is Ron Paul.

    October 13, 2011 at 1:51 am | Reply
  7. Boring story

    I can guess Obama administration will find all terrorist leader across the world kill them and bury them in seas just before next presidential election because he and Hilary are Barak Hossein 007 Obama and Hillary Rodham 000 Clinton. the absurd fake scenario which may just they can believe these BS.

    October 13, 2011 at 1:03 am | Reply
  8. amust

    why US is so much obsessed with wars and creating enemies....live and let live.

    October 13, 2011 at 12:31 am | Reply
    • sorry for US

      these kind of thinking need sanity that Zionist followers don't have it. I'm sorry for all Americans who are in trap of Zionists Bankers and Oil Companies

      October 13, 2011 at 12:52 am | Reply
  9. American

    It seems all American politicians are paranoid. I'm sorry for myself.

    October 13, 2011 at 12:07 am | Reply
    • sorry for US

      I'm sorry for myself too. you are right, people around the world can make fun of us for our fool leaders

      October 13, 2011 at 12:09 am | Reply
  10. PATRICK A.

    David Cohen, Treasury's under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, speaking with CNN's Wolf Blitzer on "The Situation Room," admitted that, by laundering money through a third country, Iran was able to circumvent existing sanctions.

    What else should one expect from this JEW,these are intent to bring America to its knees and we are all blinded,no wonder they think they are God,s people.

    October 12, 2011 at 11:52 pm | Reply
  11. Jacko

    If you are too stupid to think that the US government doesn’t lie please skip this post.
    If you are smarter than that then ask yourself two easy questions:
    What is the states interests in such a fictive plot? ... Plenty!
    What is Iran’s interests in such a plot? ... none!
    Not to mention that no aspect of that plot makes sense.

    October 12, 2011 at 11:46 pm | Reply
  12. David Miller

    I just smell rats here, remember the Niger Iraq Uranium story? This lying to Congress AG try to pull off another fast and furious and more rediculous story with a drug dealer as witness just try to save his own @$$. What a shame?

    October 12, 2011 at 11:37 pm | Reply
  13. lurchfreek

    Good JOB CIA!!!!

    October 12, 2011 at 11:31 pm | Reply
  14. frootyme

    Bellyfat capitalists need a brake from wall stree occupiers headlines. What a joke – Iran in a plot to Kill Saudi envoy!
    If Hillary's hair grow she will say Iran is behind it, instead of going to barbershop to get them cut.
    Entires episode is just an execuse to sell another 20 or more F-16s to Saudis who will park them in the hanger and junk them to US after 10 years!

    October 12, 2011 at 11:22 pm | Reply
  15. Jack Bauer CTU

    I'm federal agent Jack Bauer. This is the longest day of my life.

    October 12, 2011 at 10:59 pm | Reply
  16. Afam

    Pls stop this politics of western gangsterism

    October 12, 2011 at 10:56 pm | Reply
    • Jack Bauer CTU

      You don't have a cause. You don't believe in anything. But you would sell anyone and anything out to the highest bidder.

      October 12, 2011 at 11:05 pm | Reply
  17. Jim

    The CIA has killed Iranian civilians – they actually fund and sponsor groups that they acknowledge carry out attacks on civilians. Some of the groups: Mojahedeen-e Khalq (Saddam's terror squad), PJAK (Kurdish terrorist group); Jundallah (Saudi funded suicide bombers working with American intelligence). The US does what it's accusing Iran of - and the US story about the some Saudi errand boy being targeted doesn't hold up. Iran could easily kill Saudis closer to home (including the Saudi diplomats in Tehran or elsewhere in the region). And hiring the "Mexican Mafia"? Give me a break! What a load of false flag crap. They should focus on Israel deliberately bombing the USS Liberty (which every crew member says happened).

    October 12, 2011 at 10:47 pm | Reply
    • justin pate

      moron, killing people on our soil is the goal!

      October 12, 2011 at 10:52 pm | Reply
    • Brad76

      lol @ Justin calling him a moron.

      If anyone believes this dumb story they need to be slapped.

      October 13, 2011 at 12:59 am | Reply
      • TimeForTruth

        lol apparently most of you missed the part of the article where the suspect confessed to the crime. oops. so please, save your nutty conspiracy theories for the 9/11 reunions...this one is an open and shut case.

        October 13, 2011 at 5:04 am |
      • Dan

        Pepe Escobar brings these ponits up as well in his latest Asia Times piece:AfPak and the new great gamewww dot atimes dot com/atimes/South_Asia/LI09Df01.htmlQuoteAll about PipelineistanWhat the Islamabad establishment wants for Afghanistan is diametrically opposed to India's interests. So no wonder India is counter-attacking by improving its relations with both Russia and Iran.For Russia, the key national security challenge in Afghanistan is not so much the spread of Talibanization to Central Asia; rather it's the massive heroin trafficking that is corrupting and devastating Russian youth. Moreover, instead of just gleefully watching the US flounder in its own quagmire Afghanistan as a new Vietnam Russia has also decided to unleash its own version of nation-building in Afghanistan, investing in infrastructure and natural resources while making some money on the side.As for the India-Iran rapprochement, it is inevitable even with the avalanche of cumulative United Nations/US/European Union sanctions against Tehran as New Delhi is actively encouraging Indian companies to invest in the Iranian energy sector, and the Foreign Ministry has made it a priority to engage Iran diplomatically. Russian, Indian and Turkish companies they have all spectacularly ignored Western sanctions and will continue to trade with Iran.Meanwhile, in Washington, Team B-style outfits such as the Afghanistan study group which releases its report on Wednesday [1] multiply their efforts in trying to find a way out of the Afghan quagmire. But for all their intellectual firepower, there is not a word about one of the absolutely key reasons for the US to be in Afghanistan: Pipelineistan (the other key reason is of course the Pentagon's crush on maintaining bases to monitor/survey both strategic competitors China and Russia).We're back once again to the TAPI vs IPI Pipelineistan war ; TAPI as the natural gas pipeline from Turkmenistan crossing Afghanistan to Islamabad and then India, and IPI as the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline.In a few days, as Turkmenistan officials are spinning, there may be a potentially crucial meeting in Ashgabat, when TAPI officials from all four countries may lay down the basics for a pipeline deal (if built only as TAP, the pipeline would be 2,000 kilometers long and cost $7 billion).But while TAP or TAPI is an eternal pipe dream, the $7.5 billion, 1,100-kilometer-long IP is already rolling. That's what Iran and Pakistan announced over two months ago, with operations starting in 2014. This proves, once again, that Western sanctions against Iran also don't mean a thing to Pakistan as its energy needs are a vital matter of national security trumping Washington's designs.And the same applies to India. New Delhi's pragmatic leaders cannot possibly believe that TAPI will ever see the light of day. It's also crucial to remember that IP was originally IPI the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline, widely dubbed in Southwest Asia as the peace pipeline . India pulled out because of what else relentless Washington pressure. But now India is back on the table discussing not only IPI but a second, although remote, possibility an underwater II (Iran-India) pipeline.New Delhi very well knows that China is salivating with the prospect of a northern extension of IP, alongside the Karakoram highway, towards Xinjiang in western China. Already Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has suggested that if India keeps on wobbling, this will be the Iran-Pakistan-China pipeline.The next contours of the New Great Game in Eurasia widely reside on who will win in these Pipelineistan wars involving Central Asia, South Asia and Southwest Asia. Considering the accumulated Western package of sanctions/blockades/embargoes, the ball would be on Iran's court to fight tremendous odds and upgrade its technology, build IP or IPI, and guarantee natural gas flowing non-stop.Any moves against Iran will be seen all across Asia as an attack against the Asia Energy Security Grid; a classic, Pipelineistan-configured, war of Washington against Asian integration. As for the competing option, it's pure surrealism; who can possibly believe Karzai will convince the Taliban not to profit from the same pipeline the Americans wanted to build before they decided to bomb the Taliban out of power? End Quote

        March 4, 2012 at 9:03 pm |
    • sjdsh

      Thank you Jim.......sheeple got their heads up their you know what....as usual.....as planned...stay tuned...BBS

      October 17, 2011 at 2:49 am | Reply
  18. Duke

    The Quds remind of the CIA...The Mexican druggies remind me of the Mafia...The Saudi ambassador reminds of Castro... Where were the sanctions then? The chicken's coming home to roost, huh

    October 12, 2011 at 10:41 pm | Reply
  19. dmnewsi

    Oh my. Almost as bad as the Mossad watching 9/11 happen from a New Jersey street corner...

    October 12, 2011 at 10:37 pm | Reply
  20. Man Tan

    Let's Face it. Obama and Hillary are a big freaking joke when it comes to dealing with Iran...

    October 12, 2011 at 10:15 pm | Reply
    • citizenmn

      However, Reagan made us all proud when he sold weapons to Iran.

      October 12, 2011 at 11:03 pm | Reply
    • Jack Bauer CTU

      That's the problem with people like you, George. You want results, but you never want to get your hands dirty.

      October 12, 2011 at 11:03 pm | Reply
      • Aniruddho

        Israel has huge gas reserves in the Mediterranean off its sheros, and Gaza has a large gas reserve in its maritime possessions. British interests, led by Tony Blair, have been negotiating with Israel and Fatah to tap the gas resources.www dot globalresearch dot ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&code=CHO20090108&articleId=11680 www dot jpost dot com/Home/Article.aspx?id=48362www dot guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2007/jul/26/gazaagasforblairwww dot jcpa dot org/JCPA/Templates/ShowPage.asp?DBID=1&LNGID=1&TMID=111&FID=283&PID=1845&IID=1896www dot bg-group dot com/OurBusiness/WhereWeOperate/Pages/pgIsraelandAreasofPalestinianAuthority.aspxIsrael's campaign to demonize Iran started in 1992, realized its first American 'success' in the form of sanctions on Iran in 1995, and intensified in 1999, when Ephraim Sneh convinced Knesset to shift military funding to an anti-Iran objective. The timeline tracks with the progress of the lawsuit between Iran and Israel over the lucrative tanker-pipeline oil deal Israel had enjoyed with Iran between 1950 and 1979, whereby Iran shipped oil to Eilat, where it entered a pipeline to Ashkelon and thence was marketed to Europe. Khomeini halted the arrangement in 1979 and in 1985 Iran sued Israel on contracts in the Trans Asiatic company. A Swiss arbitrator decided in Iran's favor in 2004; Paz, Sonol and Delek oil companies must compensate the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) hundreds of millions of dollars. Additional lawsuits involving Trans Asiatic are in the pipeline; the Israeli firms have refused to pay the mediated amounts.The affair provides an insight into the extent to which Israel-the-state is Israel, Inc., which puts its full military and bureaucratic apparatus behind commercial dealings of Israeli companies. It also demonstrates that when Americans complain bitterly that US wars in the Middle East are about oil, they are partially correct: they HAVE been resource wars, but not necessarily for the benefit of US; for minimal investment, Israel intends to gain maximum return from oil (and/or gas) pipeline deals.

        March 4, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
  21. rob83

    Umm don't we assassinate someone like once a month, at the least?

    October 12, 2011 at 10:08 pm | Reply
  22. charlie brown

    This proves that the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on homeland security over the past 10 years can catch someone before he did anything.

    That's proves the money is being well spent.

    .

    October 12, 2011 at 9:28 pm | Reply
  23. william gundry

    Iran is angling for a fight. Its possible they are extemporising internal problems, they are adding to a chaotic mix involving most of the middle east. Its a powerplay, and they pulled this ace before next year's presidential elections.On their part, they probably see this as pre-emptive, to avoid a syrian showdown, in which case, was Assad deposed, Iran would be encircLed.

    October 12, 2011 at 9:26 pm | Reply
    • Adrian

      And the USA will be totally bankrupted my house would be worth 1/10 of what I paid for. Dam war mongers are ripping us dry. Ron Paul 2012 Please !!!!!!

      October 12, 2011 at 9:31 pm | Reply
  24. PeteH

    Nice huge Capital One ad, jerkoffs.

    October 12, 2011 at 9:25 pm | Reply
  25. Alfredo

    Humans are corrupt. Everybody is out for their personal interests America is paranoid about Iran and vice verse. Can't humans all get along? No..

    October 12, 2011 at 8:59 pm | Reply
    • Jack Bauer CTU

      There are things in this world that are just out of our control. Sometimes we like to blame ourselves for them so we can try to make sense out of them.

      October 12, 2011 at 11:06 pm | Reply
  26. Daniel Loiselle ( Le jardinier urbain )

    My God that's terrible. It's almost as if the CIA were to have contracted the Mafia to take out Castro. Terrible.

    October 12, 2011 at 8:48 pm | Reply
    • Adrian

      Lmfao We have set up the good democratic exampleon how to do assasinations. They have to create a type of CIA and do things the right way.

      October 12, 2011 at 9:28 pm | Reply
    • Jack Bauer CTU

      I used to be in the military. Used to do field work for the CIA. I've been to some horrible places. I've seen some pretty terrible things. I don't think I've ever been this scared in my whole life.

      October 12, 2011 at 11:01 pm | Reply
    • Israe

      Jon, if by proof you mean an official eeatsmtnt saying we want to hinder Iran's economic development, for its own sake then I can't offer you one.Keep in mind that Iran has been under US sanctions since 1979. Under Bill Clinton in the 1990s, those sanctions were expanded. No one ever linked those sanctions to Iran's nuclear program back then.Now, broad based sanctions, such as those on Iran since 1979, have no other purpose other than to hinder economic development. What other purpose do you suggest? We are not talking sanctions against a specific import, but against any company that does any significant business with Iran.Furthermore, keep in mind the United States has never stated under what conditions it would ever lift sanctions. If it's the nuclear program why not say end your program entirely and we will lift all sanctions? Now, ask yourself, what would happen if the US lifted all sanctions on Iran? How much foreign investment would flow in? How much technological exchange would occur? What foreign markets would be opened up to Iran? How much higher would Iran's oil production be? How much natural gas would flow from Iran to Europe? Or India? Or China? How much stronger would Iran's economy be? With all that, what would happen to Iran's regional influence? Would it diminish or grow? Would the US want it to grow? Would Israel want it to grow? Would that be less or more dangerous than the hypothetical possibility of Iran developing nukes?Your eeatsmtnt about the Sunni-Shia divide is not accurate. Other than a relatively small number of Salafists and Wahabists, Sunni Muslims recognize Shiism as a perfectly legitimate form of Islam. This has been stated by Al Azhar University Scholars in Cairo, by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, and by numerous Sunni Muslims that I know personally.It was widely heard in 2006 during numerous pro Hizbullah demonstrations throughout the Muslim world.Of course it is certainly true that there is now a Sunni/Shia split in Iraq, but prior to the US invasion, Sunni/Shia intermarriage was commonplace and without stigma.Now what I have written is short of incontrovertible legal proof. But ask yourself if it makes sense. If not, what explanation makes more sense?

      March 3, 2012 at 4:45 am | Reply

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