Next ‘Weapon’ Against Iran May Be Gasoline

Daily News Article   —   Posted on June 11, 2008

(by Eli Lake, NYSun.com) WASHINGTON – With President Bush securing a new round of European sanctions on Iran’s banks, he and Congress are looking to additional measures to squeeze the mullahs at the gasoline pump.

Legislation is circulating in Congress… that would punish oil traders and transporters that sell refined gasoline to Iran. While the Islamic Republic is one of the world’s leading exporters of crude petroleum, the country lacks the refining capacity to turn an estimated 40% of its crude oil into gasoline. Earlier this year, the country saw gas riots after President Ahmadinejad tried to impose gasoline rationing.

American policy will likely hinge on the results of a Department of Energy study examining the effect of such a sanctions regime on the Iranians and world oil markets. It is a softer policy version of a plan to embargo the Iranian import of refined gasoline. An embargo, however would likely push the price of gasoline in America even higher and would plunge America into an open war with Iran.

Rep. Mark Kirk, a Republican from Illinois who requested the study last year, said he was awaiting the results from the Energy Information Administration.

“It is an important study,” Mr. Kirk said in a telephone interview. “But its importance can be overstated.” Mr. Kirk for more than a year has pressed his colleagues in the House to support a plan that would spur the international community to “quarantine” the refined petroleum Iran sought to import. The legislation, which now has 47 co-sponsors from both parties, was introduced in 2007 as the Iran Sanctions Enhancement Act. …

Mr. Kirk said his bill would authorize the American Treasury to approach the underwriters at Lloyd’s of London that insure the tankers that service the Iranian market and offer to buy out their contracts. He would also limit or restrict the amount of gasoline Iran would be allowed to import until the Islamic Republic was in compliance with the nuclear nonproliferation treaty and the additional protocol it signed with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

“If we do not take our inspiration from President Kennedy’s handling of the Cuban missile crisis, we leave ourselves two options,” Mr. Kirk said. “Either we leave this to the United Nations and that is a slow path for Iran getting a nuclear weapon; or the second option is an Israeli attack which is unpredictable and expensive. My inspiration is from President Kennedy’s handling of the Cuban missile crisis, which delivered a win for the United States without resorting to military means.”

Mr. Kirk said that he anticipated the Iranians might respond to his plan by cutting off all petroleum production in protest. “The mullahs have said if you quarantine gasoline sales, they will suspend the sale of oil, but then the Iranian economy implodes even more quickly,” Mr. Kirk said. “The markets would look then to the swing producers, particularly Saudi Arabia, to see if they would make up the difference. I think a lot of countries would make up the difference. Remember there is no love lost between the Arab kingdoms and Iran.”

President Bush told assembled heads of state at the annual U.S.-European Union Summit in Slovenia, “Iran with a nuclear weapon would be incredibly dangerous for world peace. So we’ve got to continue to work together to make it clear, abundantly clear, to them that it’s their choice to make. They can either face isolation or they can have better relations with all of us if they verifiably suspend enrichment.”

A sanctions agreement signed yesterday between the European Union and America includes a clause that states additional measures may be taken if Iran does not, in a verifiable manner, suspend the enrichment of uranium that it began in 2006.

Reprinted here with permission from The New York Sun. Visit the website at NYSun.com.


Questions

1. Why does Iran have to import a large percentage of its gasoline if it is one of the world’s leading exporters of crude oil?

2. How would the Iran Sanctions Enhancement Act attempt to force the Iranian government to end its nuclear weapons program? (see para. 2 & 6)

3. a) Define “embargo” and “sanctions.” 
b) How might the tougher proposal to place an embargo on gas to Iran hurt the U.S.?  (see para. 3)

4. According to the Iran Sanctions Act sponsor Rep. Mark Kirk, if it is not passed, what are the 2 other options we have for dealing with Iran? – what is the problem with these two options?

5. a) How does Rep. Kirk think the Iranian government might respond to sanctions imposed through the Iran Sanctions Act?
b) Why would the mullahs’ response probably hurt Iran more than the U.S./world, according to Rep. Kirk?

6. Do you think that Congress should pass the Iran Sanctions Enhancement Act? Explain your answer.

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Background

Iran’s 20 year secret nuclear program was discovered in 2002.  Iran says its program is for fuel purposes only, but it has been working on uranium enrichment which is used to make nuclear bombs.  Under the  NPT (Non Proliferation Treaty) countries are not allowed to make nuclear weapons (except for the 5 that had nuclear weapons prior to the treaty – the U.S., Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom). In September 2006, the U.S. attempted to get the UN’s IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) to refer Iran to the UN Security Council with the hope that if Iran did not stop their work, the Security Council would impose sanctions on Iran to force them to comply with the NPT.  The UN did eventually impose some sanctions on Iran in December 2006 and extended the sanctions further in March 2008.

Despite the sanctions, Iran has refused to end its nuclear program.

Resources

Read about the mullahs (religious leaders) of Iran at ncr-iran.org.

Read the press release for the Iran Sanctions Act at house.gov/list/press/il10_kirk/Iran_Sanctions_Enhancement_Act.html.

Read the text of the Iran Sanctions Act at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d110:HR02880:@@@L&summ2=m&.