Israeli threats of attack sparked new wave of Iran sanctions, officials say (HAŽARETZ NEWS) By Barak Ravid 03/16/12)
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Foreign Ministry official says recent sanctions imposed by EU, U.S.,
as well as China´s reduction of oil purchases from Iran, point to
international community´s apprehensions about Israeli military strike.
Senior officials in the Foreign Ministry believe that the latest
sanctions imposed by the West against Iran result from the threats
Israel issued about launching a unilateral attack on the Iranian
Yesterday, Swift, the global provider of financial services,
announced that it is severing 25 Iranian banks from its systems,
starting tomorrow. This dramatic move means that Iran´s government
will effectively have to transact its international business in cash.
A top Foreign Ministry official said that the recent rounds of
sanctions imposed by the European Union and the U.S. against Iran,
along with the fact that states such as Japan and South Korea have
joined efforts to pressure Tehran, and also China´s reduction of oil
purchases from Iran, bear witness to the international community´s
apprehensions about an Israeli military strike. "These aren´t
sanctions against Iran. Instead, they are sanctions imposed by the
West to curb Israel´s attack plans," a senior foreign ministry
official said. "Had Israel not spoken out about its intention to
attack, none of this would be happening. The Iranians are frightened.
You have to understand what´s going on there in stores; citizens grab
food off the shelves because they are worried about an impending
attack. Inflation is soaring and the currency has lost half its
value. All this attests to fear."
Israel´s political leadership remains divided regarding how to react
to the Iranian nuclear reactor issue. Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak believe that international
sanctions will not successfully end Iran´s drive to develop nuclear
weapons, and support a unilateral Israeli attack; on the other hand,
a considerable number of top officials oppose such an attack under
the current circumstances, and believe there is time to see whether
sanctions will work.
Members of this group of opponents of a unilateral strike includes
four members of the inner cabinet of eight - Moshe Ya´alon, Dan
Meridor, Benny Begin and Eli Yishai. Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz,
a close associate of Netanyahu, continues to sit on the fence, and
Foreign Minister Avigor Lieberman´s position on the Iranian issue
remains a mystery. Many ministers believe that Lieberman has joined
the Netanyahu-Barak camp, but the foreign minister has refrained from
public comment and in private discussions has expressed support for
the sanctions policy.
Lieberman, who arrived yesterday in China on an official trip during
which he will discuss the Iranian nuclear issue along with plans to
expand the volume of Israel-China trade, will serve as the swing man
who casts the deciding ballot on any vote taken by the eight-man
inner cabinet regarding Israel´s response to the Iranian threat.
Yet for the time being at least, the inner cabinet is not likely to
hold a decisive discussion on the Iranian issue. The last time the
inner cabinet discussed the issue was four months ago.
Members of the inner cabinet have indicated that Israel is not about
to reach a decision regarding a military strike on Iran. The issue
could become more pertinent on July 1, when the oil embargo emplaced
by the EU against Iran becomes fully operational, these officials
One of the eight ministers said that Netanyahu is discussing the
Iranian threat primarily with Ehud Barak. Netanyahu also confers with
ministers individually on the matter, the inner cabinet member
said. "As in the case of the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal, or
discussions about the possibility of extending the freeze on
settlement construction, Netanyahu and Barak sit with ministers
separately and ascertain their position," said the minister.
A top Foreign Ministry official expressed satisfaction yesterday
about the "Swift" decision. He defined it as "another mortal blow to
the Iranian regime," adding that the move will further restrict the
Iranian government´s ability to trade with foreign states.
Swift is based in Brussels, and operates a huge global financial
services network. It handles more than 80% of the financial
transactions and electronic money transfers that occur around the
globe. Some 10,000 banks and financial institutions in 210 countries
subscribe to Swift´s services.
Swift´s decision comes in the aftermath of a new European Union
decision to prohibit any company listed in one of its countries from
carrying out electronic transactions with any of the 25 Iranian banks
boycotted under the sanctions policy.
Swift announced that starting Saturday March 17, it will sever all
connections with the 25 Iranian banks. This is an unprecedented move,
and it means that Iran´s government will have to physically relay
cash or gold bars to pay for its transactions overseas.
During his recent talks with U.S. President Barack Obama in
Washington, Netanyahu brought up the issue of severing the Iranian
banks from Swift.
A top Israeli official said yesterday that during his talks in
Washington and Ottawa, Netanayhu insisted that we need "Swift
The Prime Minister´s Office yesterday released a response to the
Swift decision, saying "Prime Minister Netanyahu welcomes Swift´s
decision to sever the Iranian banks from its system." (© Copyright
2012 Ha´aretz 03/16/12)
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