Senators Press for Sanctions Threat Over Iran’s Oil Sales

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, right, speaks with his visiting Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif in January. Two U.S. senators on Monday voiced alarm over a potential oil-barter arrangement between Tehran and Moscow.
National Journal
Diane Barnes
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Diane Barnes
April 7, 2014, 11:05 a.m.

U.S. Sen­ate ad­voc­ates of Ir­an sanc­tions urged Pres­id­ent Obama to re-in­state pun­it­ive steps against Ir­an if it sells more oil than a Novem­ber deal al­lows.

The Novem­ber mul­ti­lat­er­al nuc­le­ar agree­ment — called the Joint Plan of Ac­tion or “JPA” — loosens threats against buy­ers of Ir­an’s oil if the Middle East­ern na­tion’s “av­er­age daily crude oil ex­ports re­mained con­stant over a six-month peri­od.

Re­cent re­ports, however, sug­gest that Ir­a­ni­an oil sales have re­mained above one mil­lion bar­rels per day for five straight months,” Sen­at­ors Robert Men­en­dez (D-N.J.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) said in a let­ter to Pres­id­ent Obama on Monday. The half-year pact is in­ten­ded to fa­cil­it­ate the ne­go­ti­ation of a longer-term deal to lim­it Ir­an bomb-rel­ev­ant nuc­le­ar activ­it­ies.

Men­en­dez and Kirk — who au­thored an Ir­an sanc­tions bill cur­rently in limbo in the Sen­ate — also noted al­leg­a­tions “that Ir­an and Rus­sia are mak­ing pro­gress to­ward a $20 bil­lion barter ar­range­ment that would breach the JPA and sig­ni­fic­antly un­der­mine U.S. sanc­tions.”

“If Ir­an moves for­ward with this ef­fort to evade U.S. sanc­tions and vi­ol­ate the terms of oil sanc­tions re­lief provided for in the [in­ter­im nuc­le­ar deal], the United States should re­spond by re-in­stat­ing the crude oil sanc­tions, rig­or­ously en­for­cing sig­ni­fic­ant re­duc­tions in glob­al pur­chases of Ir­a­ni­an crude oil, and sanc­tion­ing any vi­ol­a­tions to the fullest ex­tent of the law,” the law­makers wrote.

On Fri­day, though, a seni­or Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial voiced con­fid­ence that Ir­an’s oil ex­ports would ul­ti­mately fall with­in lim­its es­tab­lished un­der Novem­ber’s in­ter­im atom­ic ac­cord.

“We have had teams talk to each of the re­main­ing im­port­ers of Ir­a­ni­an oil, and we feel com­fort­able that in fact, they will meet the tar­get that we have, and there’s noth­ing to lead us to be­lieve oth­er­wise at this time,” the in­sider told journ­al­ists in a back­ground brief­ing.

“We, of course, keep con­tinu­ous eye on this and in con­tinu­ous dis­cus­sion with all of the im­port­ers,” the of­fi­cial ad­ded.

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