Senators Call for Stronger Sanctions

Senators: Obama administration not doing enough to punish banks dealing with Iran

Chuck Schumer
Chuck Schumer / AP
• June 4, 2013 4:10 pm


Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) criticized administration officials for not doing enough to penalize banks that do business with Iran on Tuesday during an appearance before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.

Schumer and other Democratic senators advocated tightening sanctions on Iran and outside organizations that continue to do business with the regime.

"I believe the administration has to start sanctioning foreign banks that continue to conduct significant financial transactions or provide significant financial services with the sanctioned Iranian banks or the Revolutionary Guard or the Central Bank of Iran," Schumer said, "Otherwise, there’s no incentive to refrain from doing business with these entities. The banks are liable, you know the sections of the law."

Schumer’s comments came at a hearing titled "Iran Sanctions: Ensuring Robust Enforcement and Assessing Next Steps." David Cohen, under secretary of treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, testified before the committee along with two other officials.

The hearing occurred shortly after the U.S. Treasury Department announced it was "blacklisting" 37 private companies that are governed by the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order, or EIKO. According to a report by Reuters, the Treasury Department said the companies were "providing revenue to the Iranian government and helping Tehran evade international sanctions on its nuclear program."

While Schumer and other senators praised this recent announcement, he also criticized the Treasury Department for their apparent weak sanctioning of banks.

"Now I hope that you will follow through and actually sanction firms who violate the sanctions," Schumer told the witnesses. "To date, the Treasury Department has sanctioned just two non-Iranian foreign banks for conducting significant transactions with sanctioned banks. Treasury recently lifted the sanctions on one of these banks after it stopped the prohibited activities, but there’s ample information indicating that other banks have violated U.S. laws by conducting such transactions."

Schumer asked Cohen if he could "state today that you are prepared to announce sanctions against specific non-Iranian banks in the near future?"

Cohen said he did not "have any announcements to make sitting here today," but he noted the Treasury Department had been "very aggressive in implementing the various legislations and executive orders that create the sanctions framework."

"Unless there’s a clear bright line, if you start doing this, you’re going to be sanctioned, we’re not going to have the effect that we had," Schumer told Cohen. "I have a list of banks here that are suspected of violating US law that you haven’t sanctioned."

"If I were a bad bank," Schumer added, "I wouldn’t be too worried here."

Sen. Robert Menendez (D., N.J.) praised Cohen for doing a "pretty good job pursuing the enforcements." However, Menendez said, "while we have significantly impacted Iran’s economy, we have not, at least visibly, deterred the thinking of the supreme leader."

"In my mind, what has to be clear here is that every tomorrow is a worse tomorrow than today for the Iranian regime," Menendez said.