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Smiles in Iran: U.S. government shutdown, Obama overtures lower the heat on regime

Special to WorldTribune.com

WASHINGTON — Iran’s economy is enjoying short term benefits from the shutdown of the U.S. government and the Obama administration’s bid to reconcile with the Teheran regime.

Congressional aides said the Senate, controlled by Obama’s Democratic Party, has delayed hearings to consider additional sanctions on Iran. They cited hearings that had been scheduled in September by the Senate Banking
Committee to approve a new sanctions package passed by the House two months earlier.

For the first time since 1996, the U.S. government has shut down.  /AP

For the first time since 1996, the U.S. government has shut down. /AP

“The word from the White House is that this would send a bad signal to Iran at a time when the diplomatic option is reaching its peak,” an aide said.

On Oct. 3, the Treasury Department is said to have suspended the activities of its office that enforces sanctions on Iran. The U.S. website Daily Beast reported that 90 percent of staffers in Treasury’s Office of Terrorist Financing and Intelligence were given furloughs amid the shutdown of the federal government.

“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,” a Treasury Department
spokesman was quoted as saying.

The House sanctions package, which targeted oil exports, was meant to
close loopholes in the current U.S.-led crackdown on Iran. House members
also complained that the Obama administration had been ignoring enforcement
of U.S. sanctions.

In September, House and Senate leaders met to discuss ways to close the
loopholes. So far, the legislation provided the president with a right to
waive sanctions, and in September the administration removed restrictions on
humanitarian aide and a sports exchange with Teheran.

The aides said Obama and European Union leaders, ahead of talks with
Teheran in Geneva, Switzerland on Oct. 15, have agreed to suspend efforts to
impose additional sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program. They said the White
House signaled that new sanctions could be delayed until a review in 2014.

“I would like to get to Geneva with the best possible atmosphere to
really have these negotiations,” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton
said.

Officials acknowledged that the administration, citing a 50 percent drop
in exports, has determined that international sanctions were eroding Iran’s
economy. They said the White House has offered Teheran the prospect of
sanctions relief should the Geneva talks demonstrate progress.

“We will continue to consult with Congress on all Iran-related
legislation as we have long before last week,” State Department spokeswoman
Jen Psaki said. “Iran has an imperative to improve its economy, because
every single economic indicator is negative for them.”

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