The U.S. will “ratchet up the pressure” on Iran to address international concerns about that country’s nuclear program, the Treasury Department’s top counterterrorism official said.
“We have things that we can do to continue to intensify the sanctions,” David Cohen, the U.S. Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in an interview with Peter Cook on Bloomberg Television’s “Capitol Gains” show. “We will continue to ratchet up the pressure to make clear to the Iranians that their only real choice here is to address the concerns about their nuclear program.”
The U.S. has led a campaign to increase economic penalties on Iran to drive its leaders into making concessions on its nuclear activities. The U.S. says that Iran is advancing toward the capability to produce a nuclear bomb while the leadership in Tehran says its uranium enrichment activity is for civilian nuclear power and medical purposes. Israel has threatened military strikes to prevent Iran from being able to produce nuclear weapons if sanctions and diplomacy fail.
“We have taken direct aim at Iran’s most significant source of revenue, which is its oil sales,” Cohen said in the interview airing Oct. 21. He said that international financial restrictions have “multiplied” the impact of the curbs on oil sales.
Oil output in Iran, previously the second-biggest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries after Saudi Arabia, sagged to 2.63 million barrels a day in September from 2.85 million barrels in August, the International Energy Agency said in a report on Oct. 12.
The country’s crude exports decreased to 860,000 barrels a day in September, from 1.1 million a day in August and 2 million barrels a day in early 2012, data from the Paris-based agency showed.
Exports will remain “quite low for the next few years,” according to Antoine Halff, head of the agency’s oil industry and markets division.
The European Union embargoed Iranian oil and banned EU companies from insuring Iranian crude shipments effective July 1.
“The set of sanctions that we now have in place against Iran are quite comprehensive, quite effective” Cohen said. “They are clearly having a significant impact on the Iranian economy.”
While Cohen said “we have applied sanctions to a number of banks recently,” he didn’t specify further measures the U.S. may take against Iran.
Iran’s economy is suffering as a result of financial, trade and energy sanctions imposed by the U.S. and the EU. The rial has slumped as much as 40 percent against the dollar on the open market since August, leading to spiraling inflation. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for calm Oct. 2 after the rial tumbled to a record low against the dollar.
Iran has increased production of 20-percent enriched uranium and expanded its stockpile of low-enriched uranium, the International Atomic Energy Agency said on Aug. 30. The enriched uranium is monitored by the IAEA to prevent it from being diverted for further processing to be usable as bomb fuel.