On the last day of 2011, President Obama “with reservations” signed the authorization for the 2012 defense budget.
The president said he objected to language in the bill that granted him powers to detain terror suspects indefinitely – but forbade him to transfer detainees to the mainland US. Unmentioned in the signing statement was another section of the bill his administration had fought even harder than the detainee language: new sanctions on the central bank of Iran, an amendment pushed hard by Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois.
According to one knoweldgable observer:
Effective immediately, any Iranian central bank money that hits US jurisdiction must be frozen. Additionally, today starts a 60 day clock until sanctions must be imposed on any foreign financial institution that conducts transactions with or through the central bank of Iran for non-petroleum purposes. That means the Treasury Dept has less than 60 days to publish draft and then final rules to implement the sanctions – this will be the next key set of events to watch closely to see how the Administration chooses to define certain words to either narrow or expand the application.
Separately, today starts a 180 day clock until the imposition of sanctions on petroleum-related transactions trough or with the CBI.
These constitute the harshest sanctions yet on Iran, the ultimate test of whether the Iranian nuclear bomb can be halted without war. However, the administration has wide authority to waive the sanctions and thereby obviate the test. The administration will be strongly tempted to do just that, unless Congress and public opinion object and make their objections felt. Everybody should now watch the administration’s choices carefully: Iran announced January 1 that it had succeeded in enriching a whole fuel rod. Decision day is arriving fast.