The U.S. and Europe to Announce Tighter Sanctions on Iran

The U.S. and Europe are expected this week to step up economic sanctions on Iran over its alleged continuing defiance of United Nations efforts to curb its nuclear ambitions. Last week, the United Nations Security Council voted to step up sanctions on Iran, claiming that it had defied earlier U.N. measures intended to ensure that Tehran's nuclear program cannot be used to develop weapons. In the next two days, both the U.S. and European Union are expected to announce specific measures to enforce the latest U.N. resolution. Also, Washington and Brussels are likely to anounce additional sanctions on Iran that go beyond the U.N. resolution.

The U.S. Treasury Department's top sanctions expert, Undersecretary Stuart Levey, has scheduled a media briefing on the Obama administration's latest sanctions plans for Wednesday afternoon. A Treasury official said that Levey would lay out a broad strategy for tightening sanctions on Iran but declined to go into details in advance of the briefing.

Meanwhile, leaders of European Union member states, at a summit meeting scheduled for Brussels on Thursday, are expected to approve a set of sanctions on Iran that go significantly further than measures imposed by the U.N. Security Council. A European official, who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive information, described the likely EU action as a significant effort to go beyond the U.N. measures in trying to squeeze Iran to rein in its nuclear program.

In the resolution it approved last week, the U.N. Security Council expressed its "deep concern about Iran's lack of compliance" with earlier U.N. efforts to restrict its nuclear program. It imposed new U.N. sanctions on Iran by expanding an arms embargo and tightening restrictions on the ability of Iranian financial and shipping entities, alleged to be involved in "proliferation-sensitive activities," to transact business with the West. The new U.N. resolution authorizes countries to stop and search ships on the high seas that are believed to be carrying banned cargos to Iran. It also adds 40 companies, government concerns, and one individual to a list of entities that should face restrictions on their international travel and financial dealings. Several of the entities added to the sanctions list are connected to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the principal security organization of Iran's Islamic theocracy, which is believed to be heavily involved in protecting and promoting its nuclear program. The U.N. Security Council approved the new sanctions by a vote of 12–2, with Lebanon abstaining and Turkey and Brazil voting against the measures. Turkey and Brazil recently have become engaged in a trilateral diplomatic effort to broker a deal in which Iran would send some of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium abroad for reprocessing. But the approach has been criticized by the U.S. and other Western governments as insufficiently rigorous.

London's Financial Times reported on Tuesday that it had seen a draft of a sanctions proposal prepared for consideration by EU leaders at Thursday's meeting that said that tightened sanctions against Iran "have become inevitable." The draft proposal reportedly mentioned new sanctions against a major Iranian shipping line and its affiliates, along with travel bans and asset freezes on IRGC leaders. The Financial Times said the draft document was "still subject to change before Thursday's meeting," and that some EU states had "expressed reservations about increasing sanctions on Iran—either because they do not believe such measures would be effective or they have business interests that could be affected."

The European official who spoke to Declassified indicated that the EU may well approve sanctions that go significantly beyond measures approved by the U.N. by seeking to impose stringent restrictions on European investments in Iran's energy industries, including oil and liquid natural gas. Also on the agenda are significantly stepped-up EU restrictions on the ability of Iranian entities to engage in financial dealings with EU businesses, including restrictions on insurance and reinsurance transactions.