Iran threatens oil routes as Obama signs tough new energy sanctions
A US-Iran showdown loomed closer early Friday, July 2, when president Barack Obama signed into law a series of energy sanctions, the toughest yet, for arresting Iran's nuclear weapons program. Iran's defense minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi warned that searches of its ships or planes would have "dire consequences" for world security and the Middle East in particular.
The law drafted by Congress shuts US markets to firms that provide Iran with refined petroleum products, such as gasoline and jet fuel, invest in its energy sector, or provide financing, insurance or shipping services. Non-US banks doing business with blacklisted Iranian entities, primarily Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps organizations, will be banned from US markets.
These measures complement and strengthen the new UN Security Council sanctions and European measures and will hit every Iranian. The oil-rich country Islamic Republic imports 40 percent of its refined oil needs because of its own inadequate refining capacity. Any investors in projects for developing this sector would be punishable under the new US law.
Earlier, Gen. Vahidi warned world powers against implementing certain UN sanctions: "As regards inspection of (Iranian) ships, there are one or two countries which pursue the issue and have made some comments about it and this indicates that these people don't pay any attention to security issues in the region and the world," said.
Tuesday, June 26, debkafile's military sources reported the arrival of the USS Nassau-LHA-4 at the head of a strike group of amphibian craft to the Gulf of Aden-Red Sea sector with 4,000 Marines aboard, including special units trained in operations behind enemy lines. Our sources disclosed that their presence caused Tehran to hold back the ships destined for breaking Israel's sea blockade of the Gaza Strip for fear they would be intercepted and searched as UN sanctions permits. To read article click here.
The Speaker of the Iranian parliament (Majlis) Ali Larijani and the Revolutionary Guards commander Gen. Ali Fadavi have both threatened harsh reprisals against all vessels, including American warships and oil tankers sailing through the Persian Gulf and Straits of Hormuz, for any attempts to search ships or planes carrying cargoes to Iran.
The new US law will make shipping and insurance costs for Iran's gasoline imports prohibitive. They are the first sanctions to bite really deep into Iran's economy and hit the Guards' commercial empire. Their control of refined oil imports is a major source of revenue and those profits provide funding for their operations, the foremost of which is the development and manufacture of nuclear weapons.
debkafile's Iranian sources have no doubt that Iran will not take the new penalties lying down and will strike back – possibly, in the first instance, by impeding Persian Gulf shipping carrying Saudi and Gulf oil out to the United States, Europe and the Far East, with immediate effect on world oil prices.
Interception of an Iranian ship suspected of carrying contraband energy products could well spin into a showdown.
President Obama indicated that this time the United States is determined to follow through on its punitive measures against Iran. As he signed the new sanctions, he said: "There should be no doubt, the US and the international community are determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. The new sanctions would strike at its capacity to finance its nuclear program." He went on to say, "If Tehran persists in its course, the pressure will continue to mount and its isolation continue to deepen."