OpinionIran in the World PressProliferators on Fifth Avenue

Proliferators on Fifth Avenue

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ImageWall Street Journal – REVIEW & OUTLOOK: There's no place like New York for the holidays — the tree at Rockefeller Center, the decorated store windows, the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall. Now there's something else for shoppers to think about as they stroll along Fifth Avenue: nuclear proliferators.

The Wall Street Journal

A front to fund Iran's nuclear program.

REVIEW & OUTLOOK

ImageThere's no place like New York for the holidays — the tree at Rockefeller Center, the decorated store windows, the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall. Now there's something else for shoppers to think about as they stroll along Fifth Avenue: nuclear proliferators.

The Treasury Department last week named one of the owners of the skyscraper at 650 Fifth Avenue as a front company for an Iranian bank that has helped fund Tehran's nuclear program. Bank Melli, which is owned by the Iranian government, was previously designated as a proliferator by the U.S. and European Union for its role in Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Treasury said last week that Bank Melli created ASSA Corp. "as a vehicle" to hold the bank's interest in 650 Fifth Avenue and that ASSA "repeatedly transferred" rental income to Bank Melli.

The U.S. move against 650 Fifth Avenue is the latest in a string of actions against Iran in the wake of an executive order on proliferation issued by President Bush in 2005. The order calls for freezing the assets of people or companies believed to be supporting the weapons programs of countries like Iran, North Korea, and Syria. In the past four months alone, Treasury has blacklisted the Export Development Bank of Iran, an Iranian shipping company, and six Iranian military companies for their roles in Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

This is a multilateral effort. Since 2005, the U.S. has built an international coalition "that recognizes the utility of using financial measures to combat proliferation," says Stuart Levey, Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. He cites the U.N. resolutions on Iran and North Korea, EU and Australian designations of Iranian proliferators as well as the efforts of the global Financial Action Task Force "to protect the international financial system from the threat of proliferation finance."

President-elect Obama has said he favors engagement with Tehran. But even engagers need leverage. If the new President wants the mullahs to come to the table, he will recognize the utility of these Bush-era sanctions.

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