The European Union gave "initial approval" to its toughest sanctions ever against Iran on Thursday, provoking criticism from Russia, which said the E.U. and the U.S. weres showing "political disregard for their partnership with Russia" by going further than the sanctions voted by the U.N. Security Council last week, McClatchy Newspapers reported.[1]  --  "In a statement calling the U.S. and E.U. actions 'unacceptable,' the Russian Foreign Ministry criticized the U.S. and E.U. for putting themselves above the Security Council and weakening 'the foundations for our dialogue and interaction,'" the Christian Science Monitor said.[2]  --  In part, the Washington Post attributed the E.U.'s harsher measures to European concern for human rights in Iran in the aftermath of the June 2009 presidential election there, in which a movement of large-scale peaceful dissent was met with massive, brutal repression.[3] ...




By Warren P. Strobel

McClatchy Newspapers
June 17, 2010

WASHINGTON -- In a diplomatic turnabout after years of U.S.-European strains over how to confront Iran's nuclear enrichment program, the 27-nation European Union Thursday gave initial approval to the toughest sanctions on Iran in its history.

The restrictions will exceed those in a United Nations Security Council resolution adopted last week and move Europe closer to a broad trade embargo of the kind the United States has adopted.

Chief among the measures adopted at an E.U. summit in Brussels is a ban on new investment in Iran's oil and gas industry.  Other steps would target Iran's financial sector, its shipping insurance business, and the state-owned Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line.  Final details are to be worked out by late July.

The E.U.'s actions follow by a day the Obama administration's announcement of its own unilateral sanctions and indicated a growing convergence in the West on the need to take a tougher line with Iran .

France, under President Nicolas Sarkozy , has been more hawkish than President Barack Obama has, but other countries, such as Germany and Italy , have been less enthusiastic about harsher sanctions.

What's changed minds, diplomats and analysts said, are last year's revelations of that Iran was building a covert uranium enrichment facility; evidence that the country was secretly buying equipment for military use; the regime's repression following the disputed June 2009 election; and a perception that Iran rebuffed Obama's attempts to engage the country's leaders.

"It's more difficult to defend Iran today than it was a year and two weeks ago," a European diplomat said Thursday, referring to the killings, arrests and intimidation that followed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election.  The official wasn't authorized to speak for the record.

"The fact that the (Obama) administration really, clearly, genuinely reached out to the Iranians and got the response we saw" convinced some European officials that there was no other choice but to impose tougher sanctions, he said.

Whether the new U.N., U.S. and E.U. sanctions will have any impact on Iran's economic calculus about the cost of maintaining a suspected nuclear weapons program remains to be seen, however.

"It will just mean that investment will be made by the Russians and the Chinese," said Reginald Dale, a senior fellow at the Washington -based Center for Strategic and International Studies .

Yet as Dale and many diplomats noted, only Western companies have the advanced oil and gas technology needed to extract hydrocarbons from some of Iran's largest fields.

A second European diplomat acknowledged that, "We have no assurance" that the sanctions will bring Iran to the negotiating table.  However, he said, historically Iran has only made concessions "under utmost pressure."

Russia, which voted for the new U.N. sanctions, on June 10 criticized the U.S. and the E.U. for taking additional, unilateral steps, news reports from Moscow said.

"The same story is repeated again and again:  as soon as we reach a common understanding in the U.N. Security Council on a package of finely calibrated measures to influence Iran through sanctions, the United States and E.U. don't stop at that and, strictly speaking, display political disregard for their partnership with Russia," Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Testifying on Capitol Hill, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates termed Russia's approach to Iran "schizophrenic."

"Russia, they recognize the security threat that Iran presents," Gates said.  "But then there are these commercial opportunities, which, frankly, are not unique to them and Europe."

A Pew Research Center poll released Thursday found that in 19 of 22 countries surveyed, majorities of those who oppose Iran's nuclear program favor tougher economic sanctions to stop it.  The poll found lesser support for military action against Iran's nuclear facilities.




By Howard LaFranchi

** The US and EU announce Iran sanctions that go beyond those approved by the UN Security Council last week. Moscow decries their 'political disregard for their partnership with Russia.' **

Christian Science Monitor

June 17, 2010

WASHINGTON -- The European Union followed the United States in approving its own tougher sanctions on Iran Thursday, targeting Iran’s oil and gas industry a day after the U.S. Treasury slapped new restrictions on a number of Iranian banks, companies, and members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

But the E.U. and U.S. measures, which go beyond the new sanctions approved by the United Nations Security Council last week, drew a blast of condemnation from Russia, which said the separate measures undermine the major powers’ joint effort to influence Tehran over its nuclear program.

In a statement calling the U.S. and E.U. actions “unacceptable,” the Russian Foreign Ministry criticized the U.S. and E.U. for putting themselves above the Security Council and weakening “the foundations for our dialogue and interaction.”  Russia joined the U.S., France, Britain, China, and seven nonpermanent members of the Security Council in voting for a fourth round of sanctions on Iran June 8.

The statement, attributed to Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, added that “the same story is repeated again and again:  As soon as we reach a common understanding in the U.N. Security Council on a package of finely calibrated measures to influence Iran through sanctions, the U.S. and E.U. don’t stop at that . . . and display political disregard for their partnership with Russia.”

U.S. officials responded to the Russian criticism by insisting that the additional U.S. and E.U. measures complement the Security Council action targeting entities and individuals linked to the nuclear program.  The additional measures do not “go beyond” the Security Council in the sense of hurting the Iranian public, the line they say Russia drew when considering the sanctions resolution.

Moscow could not have been surprised by the quick move to tougher additional sanctions in Washington and Brussels.  Both the Obama administration and European leaders had said for weeks before the Security Council vote that they would press for additional sanctions of their own once the U.N. resolution was passed.  Both U.S. and E.U. officials acknowledged that the resolution had been watered down to get China and Russia on board.  Additional Western sanctions would be a way to make up for what was lost in Security Council negotiations, they said.

But the Russian government may have been motivated by domestic concerns in much the same way the U.S. Treasury Department was in part motivated by disappointment on Capitol Hill with what many lawmakers saw as a weak U.N. sanctions resolution.  Having gone along with the U.S. on sanctioning Iran, the government of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev does not want to appear to Russians as Washington’s dupe, some Russia analysts say.

That is all the more true given that Mr. Medvedev will meet with President Obama at the White House next week, after first visiting California’s Silicon Valley.  The visit to a symbol of America’s technological prowess suggests Russia’s interest in cooperative ventures in cutting-edge industries, but also risks reminding Russians of American superiority in another field, some experts say.

In approving its new measures, the E.U. said “new restrictive measures have become inevitable” as a result of Tehran’s failure to respond to the many “opportunities” it has had to answer the international community’s concerns about its nuclear program.

The measures, approved at a summit of E.U. leaders, include steps to block investment in Iran’s oil and gas industry.  Both houses of the U.S. Congress have also approved measures targeting Iran’s primary industry, but passage of a final reconciled bill was put off by the administration’s desire to see the U.N. resolution approved first.

International fallout from the E.U. and U.S. actions will likely extend beyond next week’s Obama-Medvedev summit to the G8/G20 summits set for Toronto at the end of next week.

But U.S. officials suggested Thursday that Russia should not see the new U.S. and E.U. measures as going behind its back on the matter of Iran.  “The Russians have consistently expressed concerns that any sanctions not impact the Iranian people,” said Mark Toner, the State Department's acting deputy spokesman.  “Those are concerns that we share [but] we believe that the steps we’ve announced as well as the E.U. has announced earlier today are targeted against entities and individuals and not the Iranian people.”



Middle East


By Glenn Kessler

Washington Post

June 18, 2010 (posted Jun.17)
Page A19

The United States and its allies are swiftly tightening an economic cordon around Iran by imposing new strictures that could inflict far more economic pain on the Islamic Republic than previous sanctions.

On Thursday, European Union governments agreed to ban companies from investing in or otherwise assisting Iran's oil and gas industry -- measures that went well beyond a U.N. Security Council resolution last week that reiterated international demands that Iran forswear nuclear weapons.  Along with the United States, Australia, Japan, South Korea, and other countries are set to adopt or strengthen their own sanctions against trading with Iran.

The cascading effect appears to validate the Obama administration's strategy of accepting a watered-down U.N. resolution, with a less-than-unanimous vote, to move to the next stage in the confrontation with Iran:  tough unilateral sanctions imposed by individual nations.

The goal, Western diplomats and U.S. officials say, is still to get Iran back to the negotiating table.  But there are important secondary goals:  deterring an Israeli military strike against Iran's nuclear sites, which could inflame the region; reassuring Arab allies that the rise of Iran is being checked; and signaling to other countries considering building a nuclear weapon that there can be real costs to doing so.


So far, Iran's leaders have shown no inclination to negotiate seriously over its nuclear program, which they say is entirely peaceful.  But some U.S. officials detect what they say are exploitable fissures within Iran's leadership.

"The sanctions are not an end unto themselves; they are a means to an end," said Robert Einhorn, the senior State Department official in charge of implementing the sanctions.  "They will make it harder for Iran to support their nuclear and missile ambitions, and hopefully they will alter Iran's calculation of costs and benefits and encourage them to negotiate much more seriously with us than they have in the past."

U.S. and European officials acknowledge that the administration's gambit faces uncertainties.

China, for instance, could swoop into Iran to replace Western investors.  "China is the elephant in the room," one diplomat said, but the hope is that China will face political pressure not to appear to profit from an international pullout.  Officials also say China cannot replicate some of the technologies and products produced in Europe.

The E.U. sanctions are potentially significant because Europe is Iran's biggest trading partner.  There is more than $30 billion in annual trade between Iran and the 27 E.U. nations, in contrast to the minimal trade with the United States.

The Europeans acted with unusual dispatch, a week after the U.N. vote and with a goal of crafting the final rules by July 26.  Generally, it has taken Europe seven to eight months to write laws implementing a U.N. sanctions resolution.  But officials said that the Obama administration's unrequited efforts at engagement with Iran, the exposure last year of another secret Iranian nuclear facility, and the bloody crackdown on post-election demonstrations in Iran had combined to shift attitudes in European capitals.


Some European nations most skeptical of sanctions, such as Sweden, are also concerned about human rights.  "There has been a dramatic change in the last year," said Patrick Clawson, deputy director of research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.  "Human rights in Iran has really caught on in Europe."

European leaders for the first time dropped any pretense that the sanctions should be limited to Iran's nuclear and missile activities and ordered the development of sanctions that would include banking, insurance and shipping restrictions, visa bans, and asset freezes on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.  The oil and gas measures include bans on transfers of refining, liquefaction, and liquid-natural-gas technology.

The E.U. sanctions do not include a curb on gasoline sales to Iran, which lacks refining capacity and imports about one-third of its gasoline.  Such a ban is expected to be included in U.S. legislation, but oil traders have said that a thriving black market in gasoline could help Iran evade such measures.

Many oil companies have already left the Iranian market, so the main impact of the new sanctions will be on the small- and medium-size European companies that provide equipment to keep Iranian facilities running.

Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the European sanctions, depending on how the final language is crafted, "could be consequential" because a loophole in existing sanctions allows the transfer of technology and engineering services.

Western diplomats and U.S. officials insist that there has been no serious discussion about a containment strategy if the sanctions fail to pressure Iran.

"It is good to be skeptical about sanctions," said one Western diplomat, speaking on the condition of anonymity to communicate more freely. "I don't think we have any assurance that by doing this, we will be sure they will enter a serious negotiation.  But if we don't do this, we have one assurance:  We will never get to a serious negotiation."