With the government shut down, most U.S. officials enforcing sanctions on Iran are not at work, potentially undermining pressure on Tehran as U.S.-Iran negotiations recommence, according to administration officials, lawmakers, and experts.
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 enforcement of sanctions related to several countries, including Iran, Syria, and North Korea, Treasury officials told The Daily Beast. The drastic scaling down of personnel working on those activities comes just as the Obama administration is engaging in its first set of diplomatic negotiations with the new Iranian government, led by President Hassan Rouhani.
A subsection of TFI, the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC), which implements the U.S. government’s financial sanctions, has been forced to furlough nearly all its staff due to the lapse in congressional funding, said a Treasury Department spokesman.
“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 skeleton crew. According to FinCEN’s shutdown plan (PDF), 30 of 345 employees were kept on after appropriations ran out Oct. 1.
Administration officials often tout the various rounds of sanctions passed by Congress and signed by President Obama as crucial to pressuring the Iranian regime to strike a deal to bring its clandestine nuclear program into accordance with international standards of transparency and convince the world it is not developing a nuclear weapon.
Read more at The Daily Beast.