It looks like the EU went ahead and froze the European assets of Iran’s Melli Bank, and banned its activities on the continent. The bank, suspected of providing services to Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, had already been targeted by American sanctions last year. The move had been prematurely announced by English PM Gordon Brown last week and immediately denied by the EU, and comes on the heels of a supposed “freeze for freeze” offer, whereby Iran would agree to hold off on any increase in its uranium enrichment capacity in return for the EU3+3 holding off on any further (UN?) sanctions. That offer was a trust-building preliminary stage to the EU3+3’s proposed negotiation package,
Today’s sanctions might seem precipitous given the Iranians’ repeated statements of interest in examining the proposal in detail. But given that one of the Iranians’ central negotiating tactics is to stall, and given that the “freeze for freeze” offer had been predicated on a speedy response, it’s also a strong signal that it’s time to get down to business.
Meanwhile, I’ve been avoiding comment on the “Iran military strike” stories that are swirling around out there, because until something goes boom, it’s all just idle speculation. That said, were Iran to actually announce it’s formal intention to leave the Non-Proliferation Treaty (as opposed to just claiming it is being pressured to do so by the West), I’d start counting down from ninety (the amount of days’ warning necessary to leave the treaty) and hold my ears when I got to zero.