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House leadership to Obama: Sanction Iran’s Central Bank

by Ron Kampeas, JTA

November 18, 2011 | 10:11 am

U.S. President Barack Obama in Honolulu, Hawaii on Nov. 13. Photo by REUTERS/Larry Downing

U.S. President Barack Obama in Honolulu, Hawaii on Nov. 13. Photo by REUTERS/Larry Downing

The U.S. House of Representatives leadership urged President Obama to take the next steps toward sanctioning Iran’s Central Bank.

“If a review of the facts confirms that CBI is involved in illicit activities linked to Iran’s nuclear program and terrorist activities, we urge you to quickly designate CBI as a facilitator of Iran’s weapons of mass destruction proliferation and terrorist activities for the purpose of imposing sanctions on persons that do business with CBI,” said the letter sent Thursday night by Reps. John Boehner (R-Ohio), the House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the minority leader, Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the majority leader, Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the minority whip, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman and Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the committee’s top Democrat.

“We also urge you to make the Central Bank of Iran’s involvement in proliferation and terrorist activities the target of coordinated multilateral sanctions,” it said.

The bipartisan seniority of the signatories is rare.

The Obama administration has until now resisted extending sanctions to the Central Bank, although it has the tools to do so through sanctions passed in Congress and the U.N. Security Council.

The United States has sanctioned smaller banks, but sanctioning the Central Bank would effectively cut off Iran from dollar-transacted exchanges—in other words, much of the developed world’s economy.  One of the factors holding back such a step is the spike in oil prices that would result.

The letter comes on the heels of a review last week by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, making a stronger case than ever that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon.

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