After setting the stage at the UN last week, the US and EU have followed through on their pledge to implement strong unilateral sanctions on Iran. While decades of US sanctions have eliminated Iran’s reliance on the US market and rendered US sanctions essentially worthless, the implementation of stronger European sanctions is a significant step.
According to an official statement, the European measures include sanctions on “key sectors of the gas and oil industry with prohibition of new investment, technical assistance and transfers of technologies” and related equipment and services. In addition, Iran’s shipping and air cargo companies will be blacklisted and banned from operating in EU territory, and new visa bans and asset freezes will be imposed on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Officials say the new sanctions could come into force within weeks.
Prior to this move, the EU has not placed significant trade restrictions on Iran beyond existing UN sanctions. As a result, the EU is one of Iran’s largest trading partners, along with China, and provides for more than 20 percent of Iran’s trade. H/T to Max Bergmann here, who makes some great points on the Obama Administration’s containment strategy over at the Wonk Room. Bergmann points out that…
While the effort at the UN has been the most visible aspect of the Administration’s Iran policy, it has taken other steps to contain and isolate Iran. Militarily, the administration has reoriented US missile defense plans in Europe so that they are more focused and effective in countering the Iranian missile threat. Through General Petraeus the Administration has sped up missile defenses in the Persian Gulf. They have also reassured Iran’s Arab neighbors of US commitment to their security in an effort to stave off potential cascade of nuclear proliferation throughout the region. Ideologically, through its broader outreach to the Muslim world and by developing a direct dialogue with the Iranian people the Administration has helped undercut Iran’s ideological appeal in the region.
Internationally, the administration has been able to increase Iran’s isolation and box it into a corner…
In a statement released today, Russia’s Foreign Ministry has stated that the US and EU moves demonstrate Western neglect of Russia’s opinion, and that unilateral sanctions will erode international efforts.
“We are extremely disappointed that neither the United States nor the European Union is heeding our calls to refrain from such steps,” Russian news agencies quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying.
While many critics speculated that Russia and China would attempt to water down UN sanctions to the point of insignificance, it seems that the US has come away with both a strong UN Resolution and unilateral sanctions that fill in the gaps.
This is not to say that sanctions will end Iran’s nuclear program (in all likelihood they will not) but at this point, the US has managed to gain a slight upper hand that most, including Iran, probably didn’t see coming.