Stuart Levey stepping down as top Iran sanctions official


WASHINGTON (JTA) — Stuart Levey, the Obama administration’s top Iran sanctions enforcement official, is leaving.

Stuart Levey, who has been a Treasury undersecretary since 2004, will leave in about a month, the Treasury Department announced Monday. Levey did not say why he was departing, although the job and its travel requirements are known to be grueling.

Levey, who is Jewish, devised a strategy of persuading not just governments but businesses to sanction the Islamic Republic for its defiance of international pressure to make its nuclear program more transparent.

He is a Republican, and President Obama’s decision to keep him on the job was seen as a sign that this administration was as committed to pressuring Iran as its GOP predecessors.

"Stuart has been tremendously effective," Timothy Geithner, the Treasury secretary, said in a statement. "He’s the best mixture of toughness and creativity."

The Obama administration is set to nominate David Cohen, Levey’s deputy and a longtime confidante, as his replacement. Cohen also is Jewish.

"We are very fortunate to have someone of David Cohen’s caliber and in-depth experience to build upon Stuart’s outstanding work," said John Brennan, Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser.

Geithner said there would be no easing of the financial pressure on Iran.

"Every financial institution anywhere in the world needs to preserve its reputation for integrity in order to do business globally and especially in the U.S.," he said. "Stuart has been able to use that reality as an incentive to get the private sector to move to reinforce our policies."

Others in the administration gave Levey top marks.

"Stuart’s work has significantly and directly degraded the capabilities of those who seek to do us harm," Brennan said. "Stuart has helped save lives, and our country owes him a strong debt of gratitude."

Tom Donilon, Obama’s national security adviser, said Levey "designed and executed innovative financial strategies for targeting terrorists, proliferators and other illicit actors, and built an international consensus around the use of targeted sanctions as an effective means of combating threats, pressuring regimes and safeguarding the financial system."

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