Washington, DC – “If we’re serious about sanctions, let’s stop admiring the beautiful ship in the bottle and let’s start getting serious about going after the lifeblood of this regime,” stated Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, calling for increased oil sanctions against Iran.
Speaking last week at a Heritage Foundation panel calling for harsher Iran sanctions, Dubowitz was joined by Ilan Berman, vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council, and Ariel Cohen, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation. Berman argued that the human rights situation in Iran presents an opportunity for a “more receptive audience on Capitol Hill for the imposition of sanctions.” He urged for sanctions against Khatam al-Anbia, an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps affiliate that is one of the largest companies involved in Iraq reconstruction efforts.
Cohen said the US should capitalize on the internal discontent and structural weaknesses in Iran in order to enact further measures to destabilize the regime. “The sanctions and pressure may and should lead to the change of the regime,” he said. Dubowitz suggested that a fund could be established, either by the US or privately, to funnel money to Iranian labor groups to organize strikes and foment instability within Iran.
In addition to sanctions and regime change efforts, Cohen said, “all tools of national power have to be engaged when dealing with a major threat such as the Iranian regime…sanctions have to be backed by a credible threat of force.”
The panelists criticized President Obama, whose administration became the first to impose oil sanctions on Iran when it penalized NaftIran and Belarusnet, for not going further. Dubowitz questioned whether the President had the “courage” to impose unilateral sanctions against Chinese companies. “By the end of the year,” he said, “if it’s Belarusneft and NaftIran that still remain the only companies that are sanctioned, we are in trouble and the sanctions regime will fall apart.”
Dubowitz proposed that the US should establish an Iranian-free oil zone to prohibit companies from importing oil into the US that contains any type of Iranian product. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are reportedly drafting legislation that would impose an oil embargo on Iran, but Dubowitz cautioned against this. A total embargo, he said, would drive up oil prices to $150-$200 a barrel and thus “by selling less, [Iran] will make more money.” Thus, Dubowitz argued, an oil embargo against Iran would amount to “shooting ourselves in the face.”