Sanctions push in Europe, US
Financial Times writes that France is leading a push to implement a European Union oil embargo against Iran. They report that while the UK is behind such a move, it is expected to meet resistance from Spain and Italy who are the two biggest importers of Iranian oil in Europe (Financial Times 11/24). According to statements made by German Foreign Minister Westerwelle, Germany may be willing to support an oil embargo, but is not behind sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) (EA Worldview 11/28). In the U.S., amendments to the annual defense authorization bill that would force CBI sanctions and limit any Presidential waiver could go to a vote this week. Currently there are two competing amendments being proposed by Sen. Robert Menendez and Sen. Mark Kirk, and according to a report in CQ efforts talks are currently underway to find language regarding these sanctions that both sides and the White House “can live with” (CQ 11/26).
Effects of Sanctions here and Iran
Recently there are increasing signs that Iranian sanctions are having an effect both inside and outside Iran. According to the Wall Street Journal, the price of oil is rising as a result of talk by the EU of an oil embargo on Iran (Wall Street Journal 11/28). Some have argued recently that if an such an embargo was put in place that Saudi Arabia could prevent an increase in oil prices by increasing their oil production to make up for the loss of oil from Iran. Despite such talk, an article in Foreign Affairs argued against this, pointing out that if an embargo occurred, Saudi Arabia’s spare production capacity would be insufficient to replace the lost supply of Iranian oil, nor is it clear they would be fully willing to do this ( Foreign Affairs July/August). Sanctions targeted against Iranian officials prevented Irani’s foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi from a planned visit to Denmark after Hungary refused to allow him to fly over their country (AFP 11/28).
Malfrid Braut-Hegghammer writes in the New York Times about parallels between the 1981 Israeli strike on Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor and the current talks of striking Iran’s nuclear program. He warns that we must heed “The Real Lesson of Iraq“:
Israelis tend to credit this attack for denying Iraq a nuclear weapons capability. However, sources that have emerged since 2003 demonstrate that the attack created an unprecedented Iraqi consensus about the need for a nuclear deterrent and triggered a more intensive effort to acquire them. By the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq stood on the threshold of a nuclear weapons capability.
What is known about Iran’s nuclear program suggests an attack could have similar consequences. Iran’s erratic nuclear advances over the past decade suggest that there is no consensus about whether and when to develop a nuclear weapons capability. While it is possible that Iran could develop fissile material for a nuclear weapon within weeks or months, such a high-risk move would require a consensus that does not currently exist in Tehran. Instead, Iran is edging closer toward a nuclear weapons option. An attack is one of the very few events that could create consensus in Tehran that it is necessary to develop nuclear weapons sooner rather than later.
Read the full piece at nytimes.com
Additional Notable News:
Reports of a large explosion near Isfahan today, near the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility, come just two weeks after a deadly explosion at an IRGC missile facility. Fars news, which made the initial report today, has since taken down the story.
The Guardian Council moved quickly to ratify a bill to expel the British Ambassador to Iran and downgrade British representation in Iran to a charge d’affaires.
Iran says that if it is attacked that it will target NATO missile shield in Turkey, according to reports on Saturday
NY Times featured an article and a related blog highlighting the intense lobbying efforts by the MEK and their paid advocates in Washington to be removed from the State Departments list of foreign terrorist organizations.