Robert Morgenthau, the sage district attorney of New York County since 1975 who at age 90 is leaving office this winter, knows a good deal about banks. After all, he was the one who in the early nineties prosecuted the B.C.C.I. scandal, a model of the international misuse of banks.
In a sense, he grew up with banks, his father having been secretary of the treasury under Franklin Roosevelt and his immigrant ancestors having been among the aristocracy of German Jewish bankers in 19th century New York.
Earlier on Tuesday, he gave a speech in Washington that addressed some of the great lacunae in the whole international sanctions regime against Iran. Now, I myself don't think for a moment that even "effective" sanctions would persuade the Tehran regime of Dr. Ahmadinejad and the ayatollahs to relent on their rush to nuclear weapons. But, as everyone who knows anything about this matter knows, the United Nations has legislated a highly porous structure through which both money and materiel pass easily.
So what about the U.S.? Not much better or much more?
Or, as Morgenthau said today, "For Iran, the lifeblood of its nuclear and weapons program is the ability to use the international banking system to make payment for banned missile and nuclear material." And its government uses the system right here in Manhattan through Venezuelan banks.
But there is much greater peril, and it is not simply the weirdly vivid ideological bonds between Tehran and Caracas. Morgenthau suggests, with tangible evidence behind his suggestion, that what we may be seeing in the Iranian relationship with Venezuela is a replay of the Moscow/Havana nuclear axis of 1962.
Oh, I know. Some of you will think that I am just fear-mongering. Well, there is certainly inferential (and more than inferential) evidence available that the Bolivarian Republic is in cahoots already on many levels with Iran's nuclear ambitions. So please read this speech.
I am sure that the president and his secretary of state know what is behind it.