U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill January 24, 2012 in Washington, DC.
While Sen. Mark Kirk recovers from his stroke in a Chicago hospital, President Barack Obama is advancing one ofKirk's pet issues.
Monday, Obama signed an executive order imposing sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran.
Kirk sponsored an amendment to last year’s defense bill requiring Obama to impose sanctions not only on the bank, but on foreign financial institutions who do business with it in order to buy oil from Iran.
“I think this is the toughest non-military action that we can take helps avoid a war likely between Iran and Israel,” Kirk said in November, accusing the bank of funding terrorism and Iran’s nuclear program.
The amendment gave Obama six months to impose the sanctions, but the president acted early in hopes that the pressure would persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear program, thus eliminating the possibility of Israel launching a unilateral military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
"We welcome today's action in compliance with the Menendez-Kirk amendment and urge the Administration to incorporate the Senators' recommendations into the final implementing rule," a spokesman for Kirk said today.
A Treasury Department statement said Monday the new sanctions underscore that the administration is determined to hold Iran accountable for meeting international obligations over its nuclear program. The statement said Iran should get the message that “it will face ever-increasing economic and diplomatic pressure” until it answers the world's well-founded concerns about its nuclear intentions.
The department also said foreign financial institutions engaged in “arms-length transactions” with the Central Bank would not be impacted by the sanctions that Obama ordered Sunday, but remain at risk of such penalties if they undertake significant transactions with the bank or other Iranian financial institutions.
The sanctions amendment in the defense bill compelled U.S. punishment of foreign financial institutions that conduct transactions through Iran’s Central Bank in order to import petroleum. Several U.S. allies in Europe and Asia engage in such business with Iran.
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