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World Council for the Cedars Revolution

Mar 03rd
Home arrow News Content arrow Blog arrow Blog Items arrow Analysis arrow New York Office Building used by Iranian regime, seized by Feds
New York Office Building used by Iranian regime, seized by Feds PDF Print E-mail
Written by Walid Phares   
Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Walid Phares
Walid Phares

The US Government seized control last Wednesday of a New York City office building partially owned by a company with ties to the Iranian government. The Treasury and Justice Departments move is aimed to end a flow of cash used to help Iran's program of nuclear weapons. The seizure is raising troubling questions.

The tower, situated on New York's Fifth Avenue, was built by an Iranian non-profit group in the 1970s. Federal officials say that the ownership of the building has evolved in an attempt to hide the stake held by an Iranian state-owned bank. The US alleges that Assa Corporation, which owns the building, is a front for Bank Melli, which facilitates the funding of nuclear materials for the Iranian regime. US authorities say that Bank Melli is involved in the Assa Corp. management of the Fifth Avenue facility. According to reports, rental income was sent back to Iran. But the designation does not interfere with the business and other activities of the tenants of 650 Fifth Avenue. In 2007, the Bush Administration froze Bank Melli's assets in the United States. The FBI seized two Assa's bank accounts holding $3.1 million.

According to Government sources Bank Melli handles funds for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (Pasdaran) and its Qods Forces, which in turn funds Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad as well as some activities of the Taliban in Afghanistan. This Mullah controlled financial entity is among many similar ones around the world, such as Bank Saderat. Iranian regime banks have been under sanctions in the US, the United Kingdom and Australia and are monitored by the United Nations.                                           
This move raised several national security questions in the media and within the counter terrorism community:
1) Can the ownership of a building in Manhattan by entities controlled by the Iranian regime lead to a potential use of the facility by Terrorists or - in more dramatic circumstances- to sneak a dirty bomb or a nuke?
2) Should we be surprised that the Iranian intelligence and agencies operate such a facility in New York or in other cities in the US?
In several interviews wth the media I made the several of the following points:
a. We shouldn't be surprised at all that the Iranian regime is trying to have access to such assets. Their strategy is to have as many strategy is to have as many of these assets in the U.S. The chain begins in Tehran where the tasked agencies try to build a map of similar locations in America for future potential operations.
b. The goal for such locations is multiple. The Terrorist component could include hideouts for operatives (as in Mumbai) or worse, a location to deploy dirty bombs or more. 
c. The United States and other democracies have an open space for trade. Hence Iranian funded networks can own, co-own or manage these assets. These locations can be used by other elements than those who manages the locations.
d. Even though these types of assets can be used in the future, we need to keep in mind that its took some time for the preparation for 9/11 or Mumbai. Hence if the Iranian regime is indeed managing these assets now, it would be to have it handy when and if it needs to use them in the future.
e. The New York Law Enforcement agencies and authorities are among the best in the nation and worldwide. They do have an understanding of the Terrorist strategies. Hence they are on top of it in as much as possible. But even then, there are no absolute defenses after the networks establishes accesses within a city.


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