Daily Press Briefing by Deputy Spokesperson Mark C. Toner on the Iranian Central Bank (Excerpts)

November 9, 2011

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

Related Country: 

  • France

. . .


QUESTION: Yeah, we might as well --


QUESTION: -- do IAEA yet another day. But the French are very strong in talking about unprecedented sanctions against Iran if they don't cooperate with the IAEA. So any plans on the United States side, especially with the discussion about hitting the Central Bank of Iran?

MR. TONER: Well, I think that we're obviously looking at the report. We've had a chance to look at it and its conclusions, which are, in fact, very significant. We've called it one of the most comprehensive and detailed assessments of Iran's efforts to develop nuclear weapons. And in fact, it scores - it raises, rather, further questions about the nature of Iran's nuclear program.

It also demonstrates what the U.S. has known and made clear for years, which is that Iran did have a nuclear weapons program and has yet to provide any assurance that it has not abandoned its intent to develop nuclear weapons. So these are very serious allegations, serious charges, and it's incumbent on Iran to at last engage with the IAEA in a credible and transparent manner to address these concerns.

I think going forward, we're consulting with our partners and allies within the IAEA. As many of you know, there's going to be a Board of Governors meeting, I think at the end of next week, where this will be addressed. And we're going to look at a range of possibilities. We've said before that we believe the existing UN sanctions and Resolution 1929 puts in place some of the most stringent sanctions to date for Iran, and that they are having an economic impact on Iran. They are squeezing the Iranians' economy. And what we've been working towards is reinforcing those, working with countries around the world to make sure that those sanctions are upheld and implemented to the fullest extent possible. And I think that as we move forward, we're going to consult and certainly look at ways to impose additional pressure on Iran.

QUESTION: But what about this idea of the central bank?

MR. TONER: I think that there's a lot of ideas under discussion and under review, but I think right now I just will say that we're looking at a range of options, with the overall intent of being ways that we can put additional pressure on Iran so, again, to make clear to the Iranian Government that it needs to come clean.

QUESTION: Is that under review? Because my understanding is that it has ceased to be a matter of active study - sanctioning the central bank.

MR. TONER: Right. Arshad, I'll just say that we're looking at a range of options. I don't want to say one's off the table, one's - and one's still on the table. I think that limits our ability to make sure that we look at all possibilities and come up with additional pressure as appropriate.

QUESTION: And where are you doing the consultation? Is this being done between capitals? Is this being done --

MR. TONER: Well, it's being --

QUESTION: -- at the IAEA Board of Governors? Where is the main locus of this?

MR. TONER: I would say in all of those areas, including right back here for our own unilateral efforts. But we're also consulting with allies and partners within the P-5+1, certainly, and then also within the IAEA.

QUESTION: Nobody seems to believe that you can get additional sanctions at the United Nations. Even your own officials don't believe that for now.

MR. TONER: Well, and I think, as I said, we do have very robust sanctions in place.

QUESTION: Right. So - but if you can't do anything at the UN right now, then you are essentially reduced to either additional unilateral sanctions or like - sanctions by likeminded states.

MR. TONER: Correct. I think we're looking at, again, the range of options and with a focus on trying to increase pressure.

QUESTION: Do think there will - sorry, one more for me. Do you think there will definitely be additional unilateral U.S. sanctions?

MR. TONER: Again, I don't want to rule anything out, but I don't want to rule anything in. We're looking at ways that we can apply pressure. We're always doing that.

QUESTION: Isn't it the case that the Iranian central bank is already subject to sanctions, U.S. sanctions?

MR. TONER: Again, U.S. sanctions or --


MR. TONER: I would have to do a deeper dive on that to find out.

QUESTION: When you do do the deeper dive and you get in touch with people at Treasury, I think you will find that it is, in fact, already under sanctions.

MR. TONER: They may well be, in some fashion, affected by the current sanctions regime.

QUESTION: Have you looked at the two pieces of legislation that were approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week, which, among other things, provide authorities for the President to sanction the Iranian central bank should Iran be - should he determine that Iran do any of a number of things, including support terrorism, et cetera?

And also, that raised the possibility of sort of additional extra-territorial sanctions on non-U.S. companies that dealt with Iran's oil and gas sector. Do you have an opinion? Does the Administration have a view on those pieces of legislation? Are they a good thing, or are they a bad thing? Is this helpful to you?

MR. TONER: Well, again, I think we're - as we just - as I just said, in light of yesterday's report, which we're still consulting on and discussing, we're looking at ways that we can crystallize the decision in the Iranian Government's mind that it must address the international community's concerns about its nuclear program. In that regard, we're looking at ways that we can apply additional pressure. One of the folks that we're talking to - one of the parties we're talking to in this process, is the Congress, certainly, and we're working on a consultative basis with them.

QUESTION: But you don't have a formal view on those pieces of legislation?

MR. TONER: Again, I don't want to rule anything out or anything in definitively at this point. We're looking at a range of options.

Yeah. Go ahead, Jill.

QUESTION: One more. Some people who follow Iran closely have said that the United States reaction to this report was oddly passive or subdued from what it expected. I mean, this is an important report, and a lot of people are talking about how the - what high level of concern there is. Would you accept that? That this might be another example of the U.S. leading from behind, or why so controlled in the way it has been described by the United States?

MR. TONER: Well, I would hope that any reaction on the part of the U.S. Government is deliberative and coherent and takes into account all the information in a clear and concise way. And that's exactly what we're doing with this report. We're consulting with our partners and allies on it. The conclusions that it draws are alarming. And moving forward, we're very clear that we are looking at additional ways to apply pressure on Iran and that we're going to work with our allies and partners in that regard, because, again, let's be clear that the onus here is on Iran to address these questions, very serious questions raised by - not in America, not the United States, but the international community about the intent of its nuclear program.

Yeah. Go ahead, Tejinder.

QUESTION: Different subject.

QUESTION: No. Can we stay on this?

MR. TONER: Yeah. Sure, Matt.

QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the Russians as they're coming out and saying absolutely not to new sanctions?

MR. TONER: Look, I think we're just still consulting with the Russians and other P-5+1 members in the coming days and weeks.

QUESTION: Well, you may still be consulting with them, but I'm not sure - doesn't sound like they want to listen to you.

MR. TONER: Look, I think that the P-5+1 continues to be very coherent. We're all of one mind in that - in our concern over Iran's nuclear program and our shared goal of having Iran address the international community's concerns about it.

QUESTION: When was the last time that the P-5+1 displayed coherence on this issue? When was the last time they met?

MR. TONER: It's been several months. I know that --

QUESTION: Several?

MR. TONER: Lady Catherine Ashton did send --

QUESTION: February, maybe?

MR. TONER: -- a letter to the - but Lady - well, we continue to consult all the time on these issues.

QUESTION: Nine months? New life has been brought into the world since then.

QUESTION: I thought there was a meeting on the sidelines of UNGA, but not any ministerial meeting.

MR. TONER: There was a meeting. You're right. Thank you.

QUESTION: I'm talking about the senior-level people.

MR. TONER: Well, again, it's not just when they all sit around the same table, but it's also a regular consultations that take place between the United States and its P-5+1 partners. And most recently, it's been - it was a letter that was sent by Lady Catherine Ashton to the Iranians asking them - basically saying when you're ready to seriously negotiate, the door remains open and that's indeed the case.

QUESTION: That letter was sent when?

MR. TONER: I'll have to check. I think it was last month or so. It was after - I believe it was after UNGA.

QUESTION: After UNGA? So end of September?

MR. TONER: That's correct. But again, it's - this is just last month. I don't have the exact date. But that reaffirmed our shared goal of a comprehensive, negotiated long-term solution which restores international conference and the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program. That remains the goal of the P-5+1.