October 07, 2009
What Happens To You When You Develop a Nuclear Program?
Posted by David Zaring

Well, of course, the United States is not happy, especially if you are Iran, long an opponent.  So one thing that happens is diplomatic - there's an effort to isolate you, to prevent you from obtaining nuclear technology, and always the threat of the use of force. 

But there's also something a bit more administrative and corporate that happens to you.  There is a financial war waged against those you did business with, and the United States has embraced this method as much as any other since 9/11 - I'm generally a critic of the process, but that's for reasons completely unrelated to whether we should be happy about what Iran is up to.

Stuart Levey, the extremely smart lawyer who began government service in the Bush administration, remains in the Obama administration today, and is now one of three undersecretaries in the Treasury Department (that's the notch below the deputy, who is the guy below Geithner) testified to Congress yesterday about what he has been doing about Iran.  Many banks have had to alter their business plans because of Levey, et al., at a minimum as far as reporting to the government.  Other financiers have been encouraged to end their relationships with the country and its subordinates, with, it appears, great success.  Possibly a memorable moment for the repurposing of finance towards American goals.  At any rate, here's the mechanics, in his words:

Beginning in 2006, we developed and implemented a strategy to target Iran's illicit conduct.  We took formal action against many of the specific banks, government entities, companies, and people involved in Iran's support for terrorism and its proliferation activities.  We did so using two powerful Executive Orders, E.O. 13382 and E.O. 13224, that allow us to designate proliferators of weapons of mass destruction, terrorists, and their supporters, freezing any assets they have under U.S. jurisdiction and preventing U.S. persons, wherever located, from doing business with them.  We have designated more than 100 entities and individuals supporting Iran's nuclear and missile enterprises, including the key organizations within Iran, scores of their front companies, Iran's major banks that finance their conduct, and Iran's major shipping line, the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, that handles illicit shipments for these dangerous enterprises.  We have also acted against the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or the IRGC, and several of its companies for proliferation, as well as the IRGC's Qods Force for its role in supporting terrorist organizations.

So that's how the freeze orders work, and how the government pursues international disincentives - apart from trying to persuade the Russians and the Chinese to protest as vigorously as does the United States on these nuclear matters.

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