Senate Passes Iran Sanctions on Gasoline Imports
By Deal Hudson
The Senate, yesterday, passed the sanctions bill intended to pressure Iran to end its uranium enrichment program. Passed on a voice vote, the Senate’s action follows the December approval of a similar bill by the House.
As I explained in a column on Monday, the Senate action had been delayed because of pressure from the White House.
Both President Obama and Sec. Clinton expressed concern that sanctions on gasoline would create too heavy a burden on the Iranian people rather than target the radical elites — the Revolutionary Guard — who control the country. The White House is hoping that a more flexible version of the bill will emerge from conference, but that is unlikely according to Laura Rozen of Politico.com.
Specifically the bill would:
Impose a broad ban on direct imports from Iran to the United States and exports from the United States to Iran, exempting food and medicines
Require the Obama administration to freeze the assets of Iranians, including Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, who are active in weapons proliferation or terrorism
Allow state and local governments and private asset fund managers to easily divest from energy firms doing business with Iran
Strengthen export controls to stop the illegal black market export of sensitive technology to Iran through other countries
Impose tough new licensing requirements on those who refuse to cooperate
Iran has the third largest petroleum reserves in the world but must import 40 percent of its gasoline because it lacks refining capacity.
As Haaretz reports, the Senate acted in the midst of continued political chaos in Iran:
The Senate acted on the same day that Iran hanged two men convicted in the wake of political unrest in the country. ‘The situation in Iran is terrible and it’s worsening. People are dying in Iran as we speak,’ said Senator John McCain just before the Senate vote.
After a month of hesitation, it’s encouraging to see the White House and the Senate turn its attention to the growing nuclear threat of Iran. Russia, evidently, has also shown signs of supporting sanctions as well, further underscoring the reality of Iran’s belligerent development of nuclear weapons.