U.S. Government Shutdown Could Offer Iran Relief From Sanctions
The U.S. government shutdown could potentially allow Iran breathing room from crippling sanctions, The Daily Beast reported Wednesday.
According to the website, the Treasury Department has furloughed approximately 90 percent of the employees in its Office of Terrorist Financing and Intelligence (TFI), which is responsible for the monitoring of illicit activities and the enforcement of sanctions related to several countries, including Iran.
Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told The Daily Beast that Iran could capitalize on the lack of monitoring and sanctions enforcement to replenish its coffers and advance its nuclear program while no one is looking.
“If the lights are not on, then the Iranians will engage in massive sanctions busting to try to replenish their dwindling foreign exchange reserves,” he said. “If you don’t have the resources to investigate, identify, and designate the tens of billions of dollars of Iranian regime assets, then you’ve extended the economic runway of the Iranian regime and increased the likelihood that they could reach nuclear breakout sooner rather than later.”
A subsection of TFI, the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC), which implements the U.S. government’s financial sanctions, has also been forced to furlough nearly all its staff, a Treasury Department spokesman told The Daily Beast.
“As a result, OFAC is unable to sustain its core functions of: issuing new sanctions designations against those enabling the governments of Iran and Syria as well as terrorist organizations, WMD proliferators, narcotics cartels, and transnational organized crime groups; investigating and penalizing sanctions violations; issuing licenses to authorize humanitarian and other important activities that might otherwise be barred by sanctions; and issuing new sanctions prohibitions and guidance,” the spokesman said. “This massively reduced staffing not only impairs OFAC’s ability to execute its mission, it also undermines TFI’s broader efforts to combat money laundering and illicit finance, protect the integrity of the U.S. financial system, and disrupt the financial underpinnings of our adversaries.”
Two other subsections of TFI, the Office of Intelligence and Analysis (OIA) and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), also are working with a fraction of their regular staff.
“Given the fact that the vast majority of FinCEN employees have been furloughed, important pieces of financial intelligence will not be sifted through and analyzed by the agency charged with this task,” Avi Jorisch, a former policy adviser for the Treasury Department’s TFI office, told The Daily Beast. The government is shut down, Jorisch said, but “money launderers are certainly not taking vacation.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department, which has avoided significant staff reductions, is set to meet with Iranian officials later this month in Geneva in conjunction with its P5+1 partners. State Department officials told The Daily Beast on Wednesday that the shutdown won’t affect those plans.