Today the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control issued an expanded list of Russian individuals, and one Russian bank, to be targeted for sanctions. The OFAC is an office within Treasury’s Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Division. That division is headed by David S. Cohen.
Below is an article I wrote and posted about Cohen a year ago. It is important to remember that Russia is only the latest country to be targeted by sanctions. Sanctions against Iran and Syria have been in place for several years now, and while both countries are still standing, to be sure, the sanctions against them have exacted considerable toll on the populations. I have a feeling that the Russian officials who have joked about the Obama administration’s latest moves may not completely realize how ugly and uncomfortable things could get should the Treasury Department’s sanctions regime against Russia be ratcheted up to full force.
The word “cohen” in Hebrew means “priest.” Cohen in a very real sense is the Treasury Department’s high priest of sanctions, both in terms of implementation as well as enforcement. And make no mistake about it, these sanctions are designed to exact the maximum amount of pain, to both nations and individuals. Making individuals suffer is part of the strategy of making the nation suffer. And yes, the consequences can be fatal. In both Syria and Iran people have died as a result of what has been a successively tightening band of economic measures.
While Russians may not be fully aware of what kind of ride they could be in for should this thing continue to escalate into an all-out economic war between the two countries, my own personal guess is that Russia and China together probably would have enough economic clout to turn the tables, should it come to that, and that for that reason America will be doing everything it can think of to drive a wedge between the two countries. It is up to the Russians and Chinese not to allow that to happen.
A Jew at the Pinnacle of World Power
By Richard Edmondson
What is your impression of the image above? Probably that the man doesn’t look very pleasant would be your initial thought—in fact, he seems to have a somewhat crazed look about him. This is the case in the above photo…as well as in the one below…
Meet David S. Cohen, a former Washington lawyer who now works for the US Treasury Dept. Cohen’s official title is “Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.” His office at Treasury is devoted to developing “financial intelligence” in a number of areas, one of them being determining who might be engaging in “terrorist financing,” and enacting punishment/enforcement measures against those deemed so doing. Not knowing anything else about the man and simply gazing on his photo, you might be forgiven for thinking he is possibly a psycho-or-sociopathic personality. On that question, I can’t give you a definitive yes or no answer. But I can tell you something else. Cohen is a Jew at the pinnacle of world power. I have previously stated (here and here ) that Jews today stand at the “pinnacle of world power,” and that this is apparent to all but the most willingly and purposefully blind. Cohen, in a very real sense, is one such Jew.
Keep all this in mind as you read the article below by Fanklin Lamb, who not only mentions Cohen, but also describes the impact some of his official actions are having upon the people of Syria. As you may have figured out by now, the real terrorists in Syria—i.e. the ones backed by NATO, the US and Israel—are not the ones this Treasury Department enforcer is trying to make life difficult for. Ordinary people are those who seem to be bearing the greatest brunt of his actions. So read Lamb’s piece, and I’ll have more to say about Cohen and the Treasury’s “Terrorism and Financial Intelligence” division below.
Damascus University Resists US Civilian Targeting Sanctions
By Franklin Lamb
Students everywhere are special people and this observer has discovered that Syrian students are among the very best.
Meeting and interviewing students again this past week, before and following, a frank and enlightening discussion with Dr. Mohammad Amer Al-Mardini, the indefatigable President of Damascus University, about the situation of the students and current instruction at the University, one cannot ,even as a foreigner, fail to feel pride in Syrian students.
Good meeting places, among others on campus, include “outdoor cafes” – a ‘street student union’ of sorts- consisting of a few chairs and portable tables. They are scattered among the dozens of vendor stalls that line “DU Boulevard” outside the main DU campus in central Damascus. Here students can buy everything from school supplies to mobile phones, to snacks, and it’s a perfect place to meet and chat with students.
One learns from them about the many effects on the education system in Syria of the US-led sanctions. Some argue that the Obama administration actually fuels the current crisis with its sanctions and achieves the opposite result of what the White House and its allies claim they are seeking. These freewheeling discussions leave a foreigner with a reminder why this university and its student body ranks among the best in the World.
More than 200,000 full-time and ‘open-learning’ students at Damascus University, the 6th largest in the World and founded in 1929, are feeling some effects of the harsh Obama Administration’s civilian targeting sanctions. Iran’s millions of students are also increasingly in the cross-hairs of the “humanitarian sanctions which Washington and Brussels claim “exempt food, medicines and medical supplies” and therefore “should be considered humane.”
Among DU Faculties most severely affected by the US-led sanctions are the Science Departments and the Medical and Nursing schools according to administration and student sources. Chemicals used in various science classes, medicines and medical equipment cannot be found as before and if some are brought in from Europe or elsewhere, the University often has to pay four times the normal price.
Utah’s Brigham Young University gained the respect and appreciation of many in Syria for its shipments to DU’s nursing school of medicines and equipment and even “model doll babies” which in Syria use in baby care classes. All are now banned by the US sanctions which claim to exempt medical equipment and medicines.
Damascus University, with its 43 specialized faculties is no banking-hours institution and its proven commitment is to give the highest quality education to as many students as possible. Syria’s largest university, it is now open for classes 365 days a year minus a few holidays—partly due to increased number of students arriving from across Syria, as the Administration and faculty work with colleges in war zones to guarantee students can continue their studies without missing key exams required for semester advancement. Still, about 18% of college level students are unable to attend due to transportation and displacement problems.
One direct and predictable severe impact of the US-led civilian targeting sanctions in Syria is that the sanctions have essentially stranded approximately 700 Syrian students in Europe and half a dozen in the US, forcing some to drop out and find a job to survive. This is because, as well known among the US Treasury Department “craftsmen” who devise the sanctions, these students are no longer able to receive funds to pay for their foreign tuition or living expenses because the banking system has been essentially shut down.
If families can scrape together some money for their children studying abroad and do manage to send it via Western Union, for example, a new “sanctions surcharge” of 7 euros for every 1,000 euros sent, is demanded by WU and other money transfer agencies, suggesting another form of war profiteering. To make things even more difficult for the students, foreign Universities who might consider lending their stranded Syrian students tuition money or might even consider aiding them with scholarships or a grant have been “chilled” and are backing-off because these institutions do not want to be accused of ‘sanction-busting’ by the US Treasury hound dogs.
Few food or medicine suppliers, given the sanction regulations language and uncertain legal meanings-even for their lawyers, some of whom have declared that the language is incomprehensible, want to risk the wrath of the US Treasury Department and be slapped with severe penalties including, but not limited to, very expensive fines by dealing with anyone in Syria concerning food and medicine.
One of the US Treasury ‘hound dogs’ noted above, is David Cohen, Under -Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. Mr. Cohen made a trip to the region late last month to brief allies and businesses as well as NGO’s, including discussions in Israel, “to be sure the sanctions were biting hard” to use a favorite phase of UN Ambassador Susan Rice. The Obama administration, reportedly frustrated by the fact that its multi-tiered sanctions have failed to topple the governments of Syria and Iran, has been attempting to find and plug sanction loopholes and are intensifying warnings to the international community, in no uncertain terms, not to mess with the US Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (TFI) or the Office of Financial Assets Control (OFAC) by getting all wobbly-kneed and going soft on full sanction and complete enforcement.
Meanwhile, Syria’s Department of Education is joining the struggle to shield Syria’s education institutions and is being joined by various student associations. To date, the Ministry has not cut its substantial disbursements to colleges. Tuition remains among the lowest in the world at Damascus University, which also provides housing for 15,000 students. The DU administration is currently under pressure to find more dormitory space for those needing housing. Still, despite the conflict, even in Deraa near the Jordanian border where the current crisis started, DU’s campus continues to function.
Many DU students are also volunteering with assisting Syrian primary schools which urgently need their help. According to a December 2012 UNICEF education assessment of primary schools in Syria– at least 2,400 schools have been damaged or destroyed, including 772 in Idlib (50 per cent of the total), 300 in Aleppo and another 300 in Deraa.
Over 1,500 schools are being used as shelters for displaced persons. The Damascus University community has also taken on the humanitarian challenge of assisting sister educational institutions that have been affected by the current crisis including campuses in Homs and Aleppo, among others. This observer has met several Damascus University students among the 9,000 volunteers, including Palestinian refugees, who are donating their time working with the Syria Red Crescent Society (SARCS). Many DU students are also volunteering with assisting primary schools.
The grim reality of Syrian families, hospitals and health care facilities across the country, and now its Universities, students and educational institutions, experiencing the claimed “humanitarian sanctions” which emphasize” exemptions for food, medicine and medical equipment exemptions, once again exposes Obama administration-claimed humanitarian values to ridicule here and around the world.
Rather than target Syria’s future leaders, the White House would do well to cancel its student targeting sanctions and send Secretary Kerrey to Damascus to meet face-to-face with the Syrian people and government and demonstrate a real American interest in stopping the bloodshed. Armored vehicles and assorted “non-lethal aid”to one side in this conflict will only prolong the killing, as any student here will attest.
Franklin Lamb is the author of The Price We Pay: A Quarter-Century of Israel’s Use of American Weapons Against Civilians in Lebanon
Below I focus on Cohen, as shown in two videos, discussing his role as a Treasury Department enforcer in the war against independent countries who refuse to toe the US government’s policies. The first features him answering questions at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, or CSIS, in a program which took place May 10, 2012, while in the second we see him giving a talk at New York University on September 12, 2012. Curiously, in both videos he is introduced by speakers with Jewish-sounding names. Additionally, in the CSIS video, Cohen is engaged in discussion with Juan Zarate, a former deputy national security advisor during the GW Bush administration, who is also Jewish. Zarate’s official titles, by the way, when he served in the Bush administration, were Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Combatting Terrorism.
Cohen at CSIS
In the first video (see below), whose format essentially is a one-on-one interview between Zarate and Cohen, we have the latter providing an initial overview of his responsibilities and how he goes about carrying them out, letting it be known that his powers extend far beyond the boundaries of the United States.
We now are able not only to be much more effective in combatting illicit finance domestically, be we’re able to take it internationally in a way that is, I think, quite useful in pursuing US foreign policy and national security goals. We’re able to talk to foreign finance ministers, foreign regulators, foreign financial institutions, foreign ministries about the importance of combatting illicit finance, and being able to use that to address our most important foreign policy and national security goals, whether—again, whether it’s terrorism, weapons proliferation, transnational organized crime.
The power that we are now able to sort of extend internationally and the ability to attract sort of complementary actions by foreign governments and foreign institutions like the EU, and through FATF [Financial Action Task Force-ed.] also, has led to, I think, a very happy consequence, which is that when the most difficult foreign policy problems are being addressed and the most difficult national security issues are being debated, we are looked to increasingly as a tool that can be used to help—to help solve these problems and help promote US interests.
In his reply to Cohen’s comments, Zarate describes the Treasury official’s endeavors as lying on a spectrum somewhere “between diplomacy and military power,” likening it also to “kinetics,” and defining all of this more or less as a “full range of financial tools and suasion.” In other words, the US is able, through Cohen’s powers of “suasion”, essentially to dictate to others, other countries as well as businesses and financial institutions, who they may or may not do business with. Contract with Iran or Syria to offer products or services of some sort, even though these may not be military-related, and you will suffer punitive measures. How this is specifically applied to Iran is discussed later in the interview and in the quoted passage below. Notice what Cohen says about rising unemployment in Iran and the devaluation of the Iranian currency, the rial, perhaps taking pleasure in the fact that, as he notes, the people of Iran “are feeling this pressure themselves.”
The path that we’ve been on began in sort of the ’05, ’06 time frame, designating financial institutions that are involved in Iran’s nuclear program, working through the UN to get UN Security Council resolutions adopted highlighting Iran’s failure to comply with its international obligations, and also designating people at the UN level and working with foreign partners, both in the private sector and in governments, to have similar actions taken to isolate and put pressure on Iran.
The last, you know—it’s three years we have been pursuing what has been known as the dual-track strategy of, on the one hand, offering the Iranians the opportunity for meaningful, substantive, sincere engagement, but, on the other hand making it clear that they will face increasing pressure as long as they don’t accept the offer of engagement. And we have, you know, as the engagement track wasn’t bearing any fruit, steadily and aggressively increased the pressure: additional designations [i.e., more people on terrorist lists-ed.]; using new authorities that Congress has given us to apply even greater pressure on the financial sector in Iran, which has, you know, culminated most recently the in the legislation that the president signed at the very end of last year, that focuses on Iran’s exportable oil and transactions with the Central Bank of Iran.
We have seen this combined effort of our authorities and working with the international community. And I—and I cannot overstate the importance of the effect that we are able to generate when we have our international partners working with us—you know, the EU working with us, Papan, South Korea, Australia, Switzerland. I mean, you name it, we have a—and the United Nations as well—a very, very broad-based coalition of countries not doing exactly the same thing, but all pushing in the same direction of applying pressure on Iran really as part of this dual-track strategy. And the—you know, the impact of that that we have seen, particularly sort of through the fall of last year and into the spring of this year, is really, you know, a very significant deterioration in the Iranian economy.
The value of their currency, the rial, has you know dropped like a rock, and that has, you know, significant impact on Iran’s ability to, you know, pay for the material that it needs for its nuclear program, and, more broadly, just puts pressure on the leadership because the people in Iran are feeling this pressure themselves. And you see that in, you know, Iran’s GDP, which is—lags well behind its peers. As you know, other countries that are oil exporters have been, frankly, doing well in an environment of increasing oil prices. Iran hasn’t. You can see it in the unemployment rate in Iran, which is, you know, steadily increasing and is actually quite high today. And you can see it in just the overall difficulty that Iran has today in interacting with the international financial community, the international business community. They are increasingly isolated.
Cohen also discusses a policy enacted under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 under which any country that purchases oil from Iran—and pays the Central Bank of Iran for its oil—will face sanctions. The sanctions will apply not only to the countries, but also to any of their financial institutions and businesses that may be involved in the transactions with Iran. (Some exemptions are given to countries which significantly reduce their Iranian oil imports, he says, with the overall goal being “to drive down the amount of oil that Iran is able to sell.”)
We can of course imagine how policies of this nature are looked upon by people in Iran. But what about elsewhere? What about the countries and businesses that have formed profitable relationships with Iran, and there are probably lots of these? And what about the billions around the planet who have nothing to fear from Iran and whose daily obsession is not the welfare of the Jewish state? Can you image the anger such policies could, and likely are, engendering toward America throughout the world? And could we theoretically posit that this hostility isn’t specifically toward America alone, but also—to the extent the adage that “Jews run America” is applicable—toward Jews? Do US policies like this contribute to “anti-Semitism”? The answer to that might be obvious, and perhaps the better question is: Do Jews like Cohen even care that this may be the case?
Cohen and Zarate also discuss similar efforts aimed at Syria and its own central bank, with the former asserting (bragging?) that “the macroeconomic indicators in Syria are much like what you see in Iran.”
You know, their GDP in 2009, I think, was growing at 6 percent. I think the last year it declined by 3 percent, and expected to contract 6 percent this year. You know, their currency has devalued, I think, 25 percent on the official rate and anywhere from 50 to 75 percent in the—on the unofficial market.
You know, their budget deficit is widening substantially because the sources of revenue for the Syrian government, which are largely oil exports and tourism, and taxes from tourism, have almost completely dried up. They’re not earning—it’s basically not earning any money from their oil or from their tourist industry. That is, you know, obviously, on the revenue side, they are not—they’re not earning, and on the expenditure side, they’re spending money to try and keep inflation down by subsidizing food and fuel, and they’re spending a lot of money, frankly, pursuing the violence against their own people.
Note, of course, the presumption: that the violence is being directed by the Syrian government “against their own people,” and not by the terrorist Salafist gangs armed and backed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, NATO, the US and Israel. But in the next passage Cohen lets the veil slip to a degree, and we see who the real targets of US policy are—the people of Syria.
And the combined effect of this is that the economic situation in Syria today is quite perilous. The objective of that is to encourage the business class in Syria to recognize that their future prosperity, the preservation of their wealth, their children’s future economic stability, depends on Assad leaving power. And peeling away that business community support from the regime is one of the, you know, sort of important objectives that we’re pursuing through these—through these sanctions.”
Or in other words, impoverishing the people of Syria is, “one of the, you know, sort of important objectives that we’re pursuing.”
At this point, I recommend that you scroll back to the top of this page, and look again at Cohen’s picture, look deep into his eyes. I mean—really deep. I would recommend readers of all nationalities do this, but especially any who may be from China, for in the next stage of the interview Cohen discusses what he has in store for China. The discussion starts with Zarate inquiring of Cohen, “How do you deal with the Chinese, in part when they are not as cooperative as we’d like them to be on some of these issues, whether it’s North Korea or Iran, Syria? And how do you contend with the fact that their economy is rising, their banking sector is powerful, and they in some way are becoming a force in this financial battle space?” Note the inherent arrogance: How do you “deal with the Chinese”, who are not being “as cooperative as we’d like them to be.” Cohen responds:
At one level, we deal with the Chinese the exact same way we deal with everybody else on these issues, which is that we explain what our laws are, explain how it is that, you know, our laws operate so that the government can instruct its financial community and so that the financial community itself understands where the—where the lines are, where they can get crosswise with us.
Yet having said this much, Cohen also implies there are limits to his, and US government, power, confessing that the options, short of starting a nuclear war or some other form of conflict, are pretty much limited to “talking” and “communicating.”
And so part of what we do is, you know, in addition to dealing with governments and talking to governments and trying to coordinate with governments, is to communicate directly to the financial sector about the importance of combating illicit finance, the importance of financial integrity, you know, and the importance of maintaining reputation, because that is what, you know, will assist them as they want to be, you know, players on the international financial stage.
Cohen at NYU
In the second video (see below) Cohen describes his job as combatting “illicit finance, such as fundraising by terrorist organizations and their supporters, money laundering by drug cartels and transnational criminal organizations, and illicit financial transactions that facilitate nuclear and ballistic missile programs.” Obviously combatting Israel’s illicit nuclear missile program is not on the agenda; Cohen doesn’t mention it. In fact, much of the same ground is covered here as in the first video, including the goal of advancing “core national security and foreign policy interests of the United States.”
The speech was given at NYU’s Center on Law and Security, which coincidentally is under directorship of yet another Jew, Zack Goldman, to whom Cohen pays tribute. “You are all very lucky to have him,” he says.
While the US has for many years employed sanctions as a means for achieving its foreign policy goals, Cohen informs the NYU audience that the past several years “have seen a burst of intensity and creativity” in this arena—and from this point the main focus of the speech is Iran.
“No one questions that Iran is one of the most pressing national security issues of our day,” he claims (falsely), adding that “Iran remains the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism (also false).”
The issue of Jews projecting their own behavior onto others has been discussed before (see here, here, and here ), and we certainly seem to see a bit of that going on in the NYU speech as Cohen remarks, “The Iranian regime routinely abuses the human rights of its citizens,” adding that “it exports repression” and that “its nuclear program threatens the peace and security of the entire Middle East and beyond.” Again, there is no mention of Israel’s nuclear program.
Cohen also presents data on the impact that sanctions are allegedly having on the Iranian economy, asserting that in 2011 Iran exported approximately 2.4 million barrels of oil per day to about 20 countries, making it the third largest oil exporter in the world. However, “as a result of actions taken since the beginning of this year (2012), Iran’s crude exports have plummeted to approximately one million barrels per day—a dramatic 55 percent decrease.” He said this loss of oil revenue is costing Iran about $5 billion per month, and at this point, the effect on the Iranian economy, as in the previous video, is discussed at length. But perhaps it isn’t only the Iranian economy that has suffered:
For close to two decades, American banks have been largely forbidden from transacting directly with all Iranian banks, including the central bank of Iran. American businesses have been forbidden from buying just about anything from, or selling just about anything to, Iran. And American oil companies have been forbidden from importing oil from Iran.
Cohen also discusses specifics of applying sanctions upon Iranian banks, including passage of a UN Security Council resolution in 2010, Resolution 1929, and steps taken that same year by the EU, UK, Japan, South Korea, Canada, Australia, Norway and Switzerland to restrict and curtail transactions by Iranian banks in their respective countries.
“Other nations took less formal or public, but still very strong steps against Iranian financial activity in the wake of Resolution 1929,” he adds.
At the same time, summer of 2010, Congress passed the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Accountability and Divestment Act, or CISADA, which gave the Secretary of the Treasury (currently another Jew, Jacob Lew) the power to “require US banks to terminate corresponding banking relationships with foreign banks that knowingly engaged in significant transactions with those designated Iranian banks.”
So in other words, with passage of CISADA, we have progressed from targeting solely Iranian banks, to targeting the banks of other countries as well. This is an important consideration, and indeed as Cohen frankly admits, “This is a particularly powerful provision.”
(And of course, again (see above), we must consider the resultant “anti-Semitism,” with its accompanying anger directed towards America.)
From the perspective of the other banks throughout the rest of the world, the problem is of course compounded by the fact that the US dollar is the world’s reserve currency. In which case access to US banks is not simply important—it is vital. And it is here Cohen provides us with a small glimpse into what his power is capable of achieving:
After CISADA’s enactment, my colleagues and I fanned out around the globe to explain the new law, visiting or talking to government counterparts in over 50 countries and representatives from more than 150 foreign financial institutions. As we explained in these conversations, CISADA offered foreign banks a choice: they could do business with banks in the US, or they could do business with designated Iranian banks. But they could not do both. The impact was dramatic. Nearly everyone we spoke with readily recognized that there really was only one choice—to terminate relationships with designated Iranian banks. And those that did not appear to recognize this, like Kunlan Bank in China and Elaf Islamic Bank in Iraq, both of which have now been cut off from the United States banking system, have learned that we are quite serious about the choice to be made under CISADA.
Again, and I know I’m sounding redundant here, but imagine the anger this provokes towards the US. Are these measures really in America’s interest? Does bullying the rest of the world on Israel’s behalf truly serve America’s best interest? Or are all these actions solely in the interest of the Jewish state? Who is the real benefactor here?
But it doesn’t stop even there. Cohen also discusses a presidential executive order signed in July 2012—punishing anyone who might assist Iran in acquiring gold or other precious metals, among other things—as well as yet another Congressional measure, the Iran Threat Reduction Act, signed into law by Obama in August of that same year. The latter includes even more stringent measures, measures that presumably will, in effect, force Iran to leave the money it makes from its oil sales on deposit in banks within the countries that purchase their oil.
“As I’ve tried to sketch out, we have in place now an enormously powerful set of sanctions, at home and around the world,” says Cohen in what is perhaps an understatement.
But despite all these punitive measures, it is Iran, Cohen insists, not the US, which rejects “the path to a negotiated resolution.”
Cohen describes US measures against Iran so far as a “combination of diplomatic and economic efforts,” but of course, should these ultimately fail to force the Islamic Republic into compliance, “all options remain on the table.”
Nowhere in the entire video is the word “Israel” mentioned. Cohen discreetly omits any reference to the Jewish state during his speech—this we would certainly expect. But there is something perhaps even more telling than that: at the end of the video comes a Q and A session of approximately 16 minutes duration in which not a single member of the audience at this institution of higher learning raises the issue either.