Gasoline Sanctions against Iran Will Be Futile and Counterproductive

H.R.2194 (the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2009) passed the Senate by a vote of 99-1 and the House by a vote of 408-8 (1 “present” and 16 “not voting”) yesterday. — Ed.

The U.S. Congress, in its infinite wisdom, passed a new piece of legislation authorizing the President to impose so-called “secondary” sanctions against third-country entities doing various sorts of business in the Islamic Republic.  Since 1996, American law has authorized the imposition of secondary sanctions against non-U.S. companies investing in the development of Iran’s hydrocarbon resources or in pipeline projects to export those resources.  (No U.S. administration has ever imposed such sanctions, but that is another story.)  In the new bill, Congress has, among other things, expanded the range of business activities by third-country entities that are potentially “sanctionable” by the United States; the new categories include selling refined petroleum products (e.g., gasoline) to Iran and helping Iran develop its own capacity to produce refined petroleum products.

Earlier this week, the Washington Post published an excellent story explaining the futility of gasoline sanctions against Iran, which can be read here.

Flynt Leverett directs the Iran Project at the New America Foundation, where he is also a Senior Research Fellow.  Additionally, he teaches at Pennsylvania State University’s School of International Affairs.  Hillary Mann Leverett is CEO of Strategic Energy and Global Analysis (STRATEGA), a political risk consultancy.  In September 2010, she will also take up an appointment as Senior Lecturer and Senior Research Fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs.  This article was first published in The Race for Iran on 25 June 2010.

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