A bipartisan group of eight senators is pressing the European Union to impose sanctions against the Central Bank of Iran and implement an oil embargo against the Islamic republic "as rapidly as possible" in an effort to derail Tehran's nuclear program.
"2012 will bring a turning point in the confrontation between Iran and the international community," the senators wrote in a letter to Catherine Ashton, the E.U. foreign policy chief. Last month, the Senate unanimously voted to adopt powerful sanctions against Iran's central bank in an effort to impede its ability to process payments for the roughly $90 billion in oil and gas it sells each year.
The announcement of the sanctions sparked Iranian threats to close the Straits of Hormuz and heightened global worries about a spike in oil prices. While the E.U. has agreed in principle to embargo Iranian oil imports, talks are reportedly "bogged down" over exemptions for member states.
"We recognize that EU sanctions against the Central Bank of Iran and an oil embargo are tough measures that will have consequences that must be carefully managed," wrote Sens. Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn.; Robert Menendez, D-N.J.; Mark Kirk, R-Ill.; Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.; Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.; Robert Casey, D-Pa.; Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. "Nonetheless, we believe that both are absolutely necessary if we are to prevent the Iranian regime from acquiring nuclear weapons and thereby foreclose either a regional war or a cascade of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. We are confident that non-Iranian oil producers can be persuaded to increase oil production and ensure the stability of global markets and prices."