SHAHEEN PRESSES EUROPEAN LEADERS TO BROADEN SANCTIONS AGAINST IRAN

December 07, 2011

(Washington, DC) - United States Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today urged European Union (EU) officials to expand existing sanctions against the Iranian government to help stop Iran’s proliferation of nuclear weapons. In a letter sent to EU High Representative Baroness Catherine Ashton, Shaheen called on European leaders to join the United States in sanctioning the entities facilitating or funding Iran’s illicit activities.

“While I applaud the European Union’s decision to expand its targeted sanctions to include 180 additional officials and firms, I am concerned about potential reluctance to impose more comprehensive measures,” wrote Shaheen, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “Levying sanctions on broader sectors that help facilitate and fund Iran’s destabilizing efforts is one way to ensure that such measures have the intended impact of slowing or stopping the country’s nuclear activities.”

Shaheen expressed specific concern about organizations with ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the group primarily responsible for Iran’s nuclear and missile proliferation efforts and for providing material and financial assistance to overseas terrorist groups. The IRGC has links to a vast sector of the Iranian economy and has for years been able to use its wide network of business and financial connections to promote Iran’s nuclear program.

Shaheen made reference to Tidewater Middle East PLC, Iran’s central port operator. Tidewater has been supported by the IRGC for decades and has assisted IRGC’s transport of weapons and nuclear materials. The United States has blacklisted Tidewater from access to American financial markets for its involvement with the IRGC. Shaheen called on European leaders to do the same.

Last week, Shaheen joined her Senate colleagues in a unanimous vote in the National Defense Authorization Act to tighten sanctions on Iran. The bipartisan amendment adopted by the Senate will expand the list of sanctioned entities and individuals and impede foreign trade with Iran’s central bank. Shaheen also questioned Obama Administration officials at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing last week on the effectiveness of existing sanctions and how the United States could strengthen its cooperation with other members of the international community regarding Iran. 

The full text of the letter is below:

December 7, 2011
Baroness Catherine Ashton
EU High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
European Union
Brussels, Belgium

Dear Baroness Ashton:

I greatly appreciate your efforts to build consensus within the European Union to expand existing sanctions on Iran, and to work with the United States and other partners as you consider additional measures.  I share your concern about Iran’s continued illicit pursuit of nuclear materials.  There should be real consequences for this regime’s decision to continue to develop these weapons of mass destruction.

I am especially troubled by the growing involvement of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Iran’s national economy.  This group - responsible for Iran’s nuclear and missile proliferation efforts, overseas terrorist material and financial assistance, and gross human rights abuses - is deeply enmeshed in all aspects of the Iranian economy through a network of business and financial investments.  It is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between Iran’s legitimate businesses and its illicit activities.

While I applaud the European Union’s decision to expand its targeted sanctions to include 180 additional officials and firms, I am concerned about potential reluctance to impose more comprehensive measures.  Levying sanctions on broader sectors that help facilitate and fund Iran’s destabilizing efforts is one way to ensure that such measures have the intended impact of slowing or stopping the country’s nuclear activities.

For example, Tidewater Middle East PLC facilitates the IRGC’s illicit transport of weapons and nuclear materials as a port operator in Iran.  These activities were referenced in an opinion piece featured in an edition of last week’s European Wall Street Journal.  Tidewater operates the country’s most important container terminal, handling about 90 percent of the county’s total container traffic, and it has supported the IRGC’s activities for decades. 

The U.S. has blacklisted Tidewater as an entity operated by the IRGC with clear links to the regime’s proliferation activities, and I would urge the European Union to do the same.  As the European Union considers broadening additional sanctions, I ask that it consider moving beyond entities and individuals with direct ties to the Iranian nuclear program, and impose sanctions on IRGC businesses that help facilitate this illicit activity. 

It is critical that the U.S. and Europe present a strong, united front in our efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.  Sanctioning IRGC-backed entities like Tidewater Middle East PLC would be an appropriate next step. 

Thank you for your time, your consideration, and your continued leadership in deepening our transatlantic ties.   

Sincerely,

Jeanne Shaheen
United States Senator

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