The US has already targeted Iran’s central bank, using Congressional authorities, for a variety of issues, including money laundering and missile activity. Friday’s sanctions designated the Central Bank for terrorism, making them much harder for a future administration to lift. The bank would have to show it had stopped funding for Hezbollah or other terrorist groups.
“Targeting Iran’s Central Bank is no ordinary sanction or penalty. It is a significant force multiplier for US coercive and punitive economic measures,” said Behnam ben Talebu, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “The question is, even in the face of such a powerful move, will America’s allies across the Persian Gulf be satisfied with sanctions alone.”
‘Plenty of time’
During a White House press conference with the Australian Prime Minister Friday afternoon, Trump again said that he is showing great restraint in his actions against Iran.
“Going into Iran would be a very easy decision, as I said before, very easy,” Trump said. “The easiest thing. Most people thought I would go in within two seconds but — plenty of time. Plenty of time.”
“I think I’m showing great restraint. A lot of people respect it. Some people don’t,” he continued. “I don’t do it for anybody. I do it for what’s good for the United States, what’s good for our allies, and it’s working out really, very well.”
Some Middle Eastern allies are frustrated that Trump doesn’t seem to be considering kinetic action against Iran — an act that lawyers and academics say would violate international law since the US was not attacked and so far, neither Washington nor Riyadh have proven that Iran was the perpetrator.
‘Nothing else to sanction’
One diplomat from the region believes if the US does not respond forcefully to the Saudi oil field attack, its allies in the Middle East will question why the US has a presence there in the first place. And the diplomat expressed skepticism the new sanctions will have a significant impact.
“There is literally nothing else to sanction,” the diplomat said.
Analysts disagreed, even as some said the biggest economic targets in banking and other industries have already been hit and that move against the central bank wouldn’t have strong economic impact.
“There is no end to the sanctions designations that the US could roll out,” said Elizabeth Rosenberg, a former Treasury official and now a senior fellow at Center for a New American Security. “Sometimes the sanctions with political ramifications can be more impactful than certain economic sanctions.”
Rosenberg said the central bank sanctions wouldn’t “meaningfully change the economic effect of the sanctions already in place, but it says to Iran and to the world that we are still going to exercise our economic muscle.”
Mark Dubowitz, the chief executive of FDD, predicts there are more sanctions to come.
“I would expect we would see more,” Dubowitz said. “The conventional wisdom out there that we’ve pretty much exhausted all the sanctions we can impose on Iran is completely false. There are many, many more things that can be done and there are many more actions in Treasury’s pipeline. … We may be at seven on the sanctions dial and maximum pressure requires an 11.”
This story has been updated.