- Experts urge US to ramp up pressure on Iran in response to its malign behavior, reject further economic concessions
Sanctions and national security experts urged the US to ramp up pressure on Iran in response to its regional aggression and human rights abuses, and reject Tehran’s demands for further economic concessions, at a Senate hearing on Tuesday. Iranian leaders have complained of not receiving enough sanctions relief, blaming the US for the continued hesitancy of financial institutions to resume business with Iran. In response, Secretary of State John Kerry has reportedly encouraged non-US banks and companies to do business with Iran, and the administration is considering granting Iran indirect access to US dollars in financial transactions.
Former Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Adviser Juan Zarate argued that the US should not try to “rehabilitate” the Iranian regime, but rather, “the onus should remain solely on Iran to alleviate concerns about its activities, lack of transparency, and failure to meet heightened global standards of financial integrity.” Because Iran remains a primary money laundering concern and continues to finance terrorism, Zarate argues, “The promotion of banking in any commercial activity in that environment is completely anathema to the message that the US government has been sending internationally for the last 15 years.” Executive Director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies Mark Dubowitz noted that the US has already fulfilled its side of the deal, having lifted or suspended nuclear-related sanctions and granted Iran access to $100 billion in frozen assets. Echoing Zarate, he argued that granting Iran access to US dollars would legitimize its financial sector even though Tehran has failed to halt the underlying illicit behavior that prompted US sanctions in the first place.
Experts and lawmakers called for increased pressure on Iran to exact a price for its ballistic missile tests, support for terrorism, and human rights abuses. Both Dubowitz and Center for New American Security Senior Fellow Elizabeth Rosenberg recommended sanctioning the IRGC under terrorism authorities. According to Dubowitz, no individuals or entities linked to human rights abuses have been designated since the deal was reached last July. At a hearing on Wednesday, Congressman David Cicilline (D-RI) also raised the issue of taking action against Iran’s human rights abuses, remarking that there has been an increase in human rights violations in Iran since the deal was reached. He noted that in persuading some to vote in favor of the deal, the administration assured Congress that the deal would allow the US to push back hard against Iran in these other (non-nuclear) areas. Finally, in urging the imposition of additional sanctions on Iran, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) argued, “I hear many of my colleagues say we should keep Iran’s feet to fire, but if there’s no fire, how do you keep their feet to it?”
Israel and South Korea announced on Tuesday that they have reached an agreement to begin negotiating a free trade agreement. Israeli Economy Ministry Director-General Amit Lang and South Korean Deputy Trade Minister Tae Hee Woo announced their intention to begin talks on June 27 in Seoul. The negotiations will focus on increasing commercial ties between the two countries in fields such as agriculture, technology, and industrial research and development.“A free trade agreement between Israel and South Korea will be a significant milestone in trade relations between the two countries and carry significant economic potential for them, as well as economic relations between Israel and Asian countries in general,” Lang said in a statement.
Trade between the two nations totaled $2.2 billion in 2014, the Korea Times reported.
Korean Ambassador Lee Gun-Tae said when presenting his credentials to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in December 2014 that South Korea was likely the only country in the world that could understand Israel’s complicated global situation.
Israel began free trade talks with China and Vietnam earlier this year, and signed a major research and development deal with Japan two years ago. Asian countries have become major trading partners with Israel, with the continent competing with the United States to be Israel’s second biggest trading area after Europe. (via TheTower.org)