As the summer travel season is right around the corner, recent sanctions on foreign energy companies dealing with Iran have raised the prospect of higher gas prices that could put those vacation plans on hold.

But even as Venezuela is likely bluffing about curbing oil supplies to the U.S., and the Administration takes pains to ensure they don’t sanction the U.S. out of foreign oil and gas markets, a new round of sanctions introduced in Congress threatens to bring the sanctions home.

New Iran  sanctions proposed (H.R. 1905 in the House, S. 1048 in the Senate)  would, for the first time, target the energy exports of Iran–which has the world’s third largest proven oil reserves–in what would effectively be an oil embargo.  This would cause a spike in oil and gas  prices as Iranian energy is prohibited from the world market.  That means increased transportation costs, higher prices for goods and services, a rise in unemployment, and a stalled economic recovery.

In an already fragile economic situation, why Congress is considering an oil embargo on the world’s third largest producer of oil is beyond me, though the fact that AIPAC just sent 10,000 of its members to the Hill to lobby for the new Iran sanctions may have something to do with it.  But the last thing the US needs right now is another setback in our economic recovery.

Unfortunately, Congress has so far glossed over the new sanctions as “merely closing loopholes in existing Iran sanctions,” said NIAC Policy Director Jamal Abdi in an Inter Press Service dispatch, New Iran Sanctions Could Push Petrol Prices Even Higher.   “But if they read the bill, they’ll find out it actually imposes an oil embargo on Iran that could raise gas prices and threaten the U.S. economy, not to mention cause humanitarian suffering in Iran.” 

Which leads to the next point–a point we should all be making to our congressional representatives–we’ve already been down this alley before with Iraq in the 90s.  Unfortunately, our policy there caused widespread humanitarian suffering that ultimately led up to war and a devastating U.S. occupation.  It also helped weaken the Iraqi population and further empower Saddam, who successfully exploited the embargo to enrich himself and the state.  We don’t need another war and we don’t want another humanitarian crisis in the Middle East, one that could be prevented and is entirely unnecessary.

“When we’re talking about preventing war with Iran, the fact that this is right out of the Iraq playbook is something we need to look at,” Abdi says.

The bottom line is we should not allow the U.S. to promote  humanitarian suffering in Iran—let the Iranian government take the credit for that.  The U.S. scored major points last week with the announcement of Multiple Entry Visas for Iranian students—the new bill threatens those gains.  An embargo that causes human suffering would only undercut the U.S. as President Obama  reaches out to the Middle East as a whole and the Iranian people in particular.

Will Congress press forward with sanctions to appease hawkish Iran lobbies, even if that means killing jobs in their home districts and punishing innocent people in the U.S. and Iran?

As Abdi puts it, “Even lawmakers who haven’t batted an eye at the prospect of hurting ordinary Iranians will have to ask themselves – does Congress really want to start punishing ordinary Americans in the name of Iran sanctions now too?”

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