WASHINGTON – With Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visiting New York this week,Treasury Department officials here were describing in detail the economic and trade sanctions in place against his country.
“The financial measures the U.S. and others are implementing are imposing serious costs and constraints on Iran. We believe Iran's leadership was caught off guard by the speed,intensity and scope of the new measures,misjudging the strength of the international community's will,” Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey said Monday.
The under secretary defended the sanctions against Iran as a means to exert another form of diplomatic pressure on the nation,in the effort to deter Iran from its nuclear course.
“By dramatically isolating Iran financially and commercially and by capitalizing on Iran's existing vulnerabilities,we can impact Iran's calculations. In this way,the strategy we have developed and are now implementing can and will create crucial leverage for our diplomacy,” Levey said.
Levey said that,unlike previous sanctions,these place the economic efforts of Iran in a stranglehold without denying the Iranian people the necessities.
“Even at this early stage,as pressure is mounting,the strategy is beginning to give us the leverage we seek. It is already working,” Levey said.
The event,hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies,included a question and answer session.
Cliff Kupchan,of the Eurasia Group,an international risk and research consultant,asked if the sanctions,which have been affecting Iran's ability to sell its oil,are meant to be a back-door oil blockade.
“It is not the policy we're pursuing to try and prevent Iran from selling its oil,” Levey said. “But it is our policy to try to make sure that whatever transactions Iran does engage in are scrutinized very carefully,and to make sure that there's no illicit aspect to any of those transactions.”
Jeffery Shaw,of the Peterson Institute of International Economics,which studies international economics,asked what the impact of Iran's inability to secure multinational funding would have in the long term.
“That starts to create tension within Iran,” Levey said,”because their leadership realizes that in the long run this isn't going to work. And their young population realizes that ‘Look,our leadership is failing us. Our leadership is failing us because we're unable … to create opportunities for us in the future.' And that's happening in Iran. We're seeing young people leaving,especially educated young people,for precisely this reason.”
With Iran moving closer to nuclear capabilities,some in the audience questioned if the U.S. could successfully meld the application of the sanctions with diplomatic efforts.
Levey pointed out that President Barack Obama offered to engage with Iran without preconditions but Iran did not respond. He said there is no contradiction between engagement and pressure.
“We can do both at the same time,” Levey said.