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Cablegate: U/S Levey Reassures Goi That No Momentum Will Be

VZCZCXRO1721
PP RUEHC RUEHSD
DE RUEHTV #2760/01 3450810
ZNY SSSSS ZZH ZUI ZDK RUEHZC SVC 4078
P 100810Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9530
INFO RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHAD/AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI PRIORITY 4716
RUEHTH/AMEMBASSY ATHENS PRIORITY 0552
RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN PRIORITY 0461
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME PRIORITY 6800
RUEHDIA/AMCONSUL DUBAI PRIORITY 0096
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM PRIORITY 0970
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC PRIORITY

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 TEL AVIV 002760

SIPDIS

TREASURY FOR LEVEY, S.
ATHENS FOR PURCELL, A.

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/10/2018
TAGS: KTFN EFIN ECON KWBG IR IS
SUBJECT: U/S LEVEY REASSURES GOI THAT NO MOMENTUM WILL BE
LOST IN THE FIGHT AGAINST TERROR FINANCE

Classified By: A/DCM Marc Sievers for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

-------
SUMMARY
-------

1.(S) In a visit to Israel on 16-17 November, Treasury Under
Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Stuart A.
Levey, reassured GOI officials that no momentum would be lost
in USG efforts to combat terrorist financing or to pressure
Iran during the transition to a new US administration in
January. In meetings with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni,
Mossad Director Meir Dagan, National Security Council
Chairman Dani Arditi, and others, U/S Levey emphasized recent
U.S. designations against the Union of Good, the Islamic
Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL), and the recent
revocation of Iran's "U-Turn" license. In response to GOI
officials' pressure to have the U.S. designate the Central
Bank of Iran (CBI), Levey underscored the importance of
international, multilateral concurrence for such an effort to
be a success.

2.(S) Israeli officials were keen to outline an "escalation"
in CBI programs that they believed pose a danger to the
international financial system. Several key Israeli officials
identified Reza Raei, Vice Governor of the CBI, as a key
figure in masterminding new ways to help the Iranian
commercial and banking sectors circumvent sanctions. Levey
promised to continue pushing the Gulf states on adopting
stronger regulation until the last day of his appointment.

3.(S) Mossad Chief Meir Dagan informed Levey that sanctions
were beginning to have a negative effect on Iran's regime.
NSC Chairman Arditi also told him that the PA was performing
well in its renewed fight against terror finance in the West
Bank. END SUMMARY.

--------------------------------------------- -----
GOI CONCERNED ABOUT COUNTER TERROR FINANCE POLICY CONTINUITY
--------------------------------------------- -----

4.(S) National Security Council (NCS) Chairman, Dani Arditi,
in a November 16 meeting with U/S Stuart Levey, asked whether
Levey thought his efforts would continue into the next U.S.
administration. Even though he said he planned to resign as
required in January, Levey told Arditi that he believed the
Obama team would be committed to continuing the ambitious
program against terrorism finance that he has shepherded over
the last several years. Saying counter- terrorism finance was
not a partisan issue in the U.S., Levey subsequently
confirmed these sentiments to Foreign Minister (FM) Tzipi
Livni and Mossad Director Meir Dagan in separate meetings
that occurred on the following day, November 17.

----------------------
IRAN/NON-PROLIFERATION
----------------------

5.(S) On November 16, Levey outlined for Ministry of Foreign
Affairs Deputy Director General for Strategic Affairs Alon
Bar, and Senior Deputy Director General Yossi Gal positive
developments in the Iran effort. He told them that Treasury
had been very successful in curtailing business with Iran by
most "major players". Levey said that expanding the
non-proliferation strategy into insurance, and putting
pressure on Iran's oil refining capacity and Liquid Natural
Gas (LNG) industry were next steps being pursued. He also
reported that the recent IRISL designation has been unusually
effective.

CBI's Reza Raei Masterminds New Methods
---------------------------------------

6.(S) During their November 16 meeting, Arditi told Levey
that the Israeli intelligence community has continued to see
an escalation in CBI efforts to help designated Iranian
commercial banks circumvent international and U.S. sanctions.
The NSC Chairman presented several recent examples of CBI
behavior that he characterized as unusual for a central bank.
Arditi identified Reza Raei, Vice Governor of the CBI for
Foreign Exchange Affairs, as the mastermind of these new

TEL AVIV 00002760 002 OF 004


efforts.

7.(S) Meir Dagan subsequently told Levey that the CBI had
engineered a way for the UN-designated Iranian bank Sepah to
conduct foreign business transactions through use of the
Iranian Postal Bank. Bank Melli, a USG-designated bank, had
also purchased shares in investment funds as a way to escape
the effects of the sanctions, according to Dagan. Using these
methods, Melli and Sepah have been able to fabricate a method
of providing correspondent-like banking services to
designated Iranian banks that find it increasingly difficult
to deal in foreign currency. Arditi named the "Persia Equity
Fund" as one such financial instrument being used by Melli.
Levey commented that any such investment fund or financial
instrument could be listed as a derivative designation of
Melli if enough evidence could be shown linking the two
organizations. Levey told Meir Dagan that he was in favor of
pursuing a designation of Raei if GOI allegations were
accurate.

No International Support for Designation of the CBI
--------------------------------------------- ------

8.(S) Arditi and subsequently, Dagan, asked Levey whether the
USG was considering a designation of the CBI. Although
Treasury had looked into the possibility, said Levey, a
designation of the CBI would be ineffective without a
multilateral effort. International support for such an effort
simply did not yet exist, Levey explained. He told Dagan that
we need to build support by sharing info about the CBI's
illicit conduct, similar to the support we built for cutting
off the U-turn license. Levey said that it would be better to
focus on limiting other central and commercial banks'
business with the CBI. Noting that the banking industry
relies heavily on reputation, Levey told Arditi that the
right strategy is to continue exposing the illicit activities
of Iranian banks and banking officials.

European Banks' Business with Iran
----------------------------------

9.(S) MFA interlocutors revisited the progress of European
banks in non-proliferation efforts. In a November 16 meeting
with Yossi Gal, Senior Deputy Director General, and Alon Bar,
Deputy Director General for Strategic Affairs, Gal raised
concerns that Italy and Germany were falling short in their
commitment to enforce sanctions within their banking sectors.
Gal told Levey that the MFA was planning a visit to Italy in
December, but was unsure whether its attempt to persuade the
politicians would filter down to action within the
bureaucracy. Gal expressed the same concern about the banking
sector in Germany, saying that resistance from the
bureaucracy and the private sector often undermined attempts
by political figures to improve German regulation. Bar and
Gal encouraged Levey to join the GOI in pressing the
governments and banking sectors of Germany and Italy to do
more.

Cautious Optimism on Gulf States
--------------------------------

10.(S) On the status of UAE efforts to stem Iranian finance,
Levey told Gal and Bar that he was optimistic about the
country's efforts. Among other examples, he mentioned that
the UAE had decreased the number of visas it was issuing to
Iranian nationals and that Emirati ministers were receptive
to his requests for increased banking regulation.

11.(S) FM Livni told Levey that Israel continues to encourage
the Gulf states to more publicly outline their actions
against Iranian finance within their banking sectors despite
the countries' reasons for keeping such actions secretive.
She asked Levey to join in this effort. Levey affirmed that
the USG was encouraging sanctions in all sectors and posited
that the Iranians were beginning to feel the pressure. Livni
asked if the declining price of oil was becoming leverage in
the efforts to thwart Iranian financial efforts. Levey said
that it was and that the Iranian private sector was becoming
more vocal in its criticisms of the government.

12.(S) Levey outlined for his GOI interlocutors recent

TEL AVIV 00002760 003 OF 004


efforts by Treasury to broaden its sanctioning of Iran to the
shipping, insurance, and reinsurance industries. He cited the
designation of IRISL as a positive first step and mentioned
that Treasury had found willing partners in Europe and the UK
to further efforts in this area.

Effect of Sanctions on Iran
---------------------------

13.(S) Dagan told Levey that the economic problems Iran is
experiencing as a result of sanctions are encouraging debate
within the regime. He said that in order to preserve the
revolution, some key figures have begun to consider the need
for change. The pressure is on, Dagan said, but he could not
estimate when Iran would hit the brink. He noted that the
lower cost of oil at the moment would likely prompt Iran to
increase its production, thereby encouraging more business
through the CBI. With oil prices low everywhere, however,
Dagan and Levey agreed that Iran was a less attractive place
for investment. Levey told Dagan that the present low oil
prices provide a critical opportunity to convince other
members of the international community to apply more
pressure.

14.(S) Livni asked Levey if there was a risk of Iran
regaining a foothold in certain markets as a result of the
world financial crisis. Levey said that the market turmoil
has worked to the USG's advantage: the crisis has made
financial institutions even more risk-averse, thereby
lessening Iran's attractiveness even further. Additionally,
while Iran's banks are isolated, its economy is not.

U.S. Engagement with Iran
-------------------------

15.(S) FM Livni asked Levey during their November 17 meeting
why the USG was considering a rapprochement with Iran through
a U.S. Interests section in Tehran. She questioned whether
the tactic would have a net positive outcome when measured
against the negative perceptions such a move would be bound
to create. Levey told Livni that this was a question better
posed to the State Department, but that her concern was the
central issue being debated by policy makers in Washington.
In Levey's previous meeting with MFA officials Bar and Gal,
he said that engagement with Iran would not work without
leverage, indicating that sanctions would need to be in place
no matter what the USG decides to do.

--------------------------------------------- -------------
STEMMING PALESTINIAN TERROR FINANCE: GOI PLEASED WITH PA'S
PROGRESS
--------------------------------------------- -------------

16.(S) Levey told Arditi that Treasury's recent designation
of the "Union of Good" was proof of the USG's commitment to
continue to work against Hamas and Palestinian terrorists.
Levey said, however, that while the USG supported efforts at
thwarting terrorism in the territories, the USG wished to
keep humanitarian goods flowing to the needy within the
population.

17.(S) Arditi told Levey that Palestinian Authority (PA)
efforts at stemming terrorism within the territories were
going quite well. He said the PA's positive efforts
"surprised" his staff and that he "never thought" the PA
would do so well. Levey said that Treasury coordinated with
Prime Minister Fayyad on the Union of Good designation and
was pleased to hear that PA efforts were held in high regard
by the GOI.

18.(S) When Levey inquired about efforts to prevent
correspondent banking relations in Gaza from being severed,
Arditi said that the Postal Bank "was on the agenda". Arditi
lamented that the services provided by the Postal Bank would
not be as good because of its small size and limited
capacity. He expressed his hope that the central bank
governor would be able to delay the commercial banks'
decision to end their relationship with the Palestinians
until a permanent solution was ensured.

19.(S) This cable has been cleared by Under Secretary Stuart

TEL AVIV 00002760 004 OF 004


Levey.

********************************************* ********************
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