Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Obama unlikely to impose Sanctions on Iran's energy sector for fear of jeopardizing his vaunted 'reset button'

President Obama is unlikely to impose sanctions on Iran's energy sector for fear that such a move would upset the Russian regime and harm US/Russian relations, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

Mr. Obama often boasts on how he has managed to facilitate a reset in US/Russian relations, although there appears to be no evidence to support this claim. Quite the contrary, US/Russian relations appears to be on the wane:

From Reuters:
The US may impose more sanctions on Iran, possibly on commercial banks or front companies, but is unlikely to go after its oil and gas sector or central bank for now, a U.S. official said on Tuesday.

The official spoke after the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA], the U.N. nuclear watchdog, completed a new report that said Iran has worked on developing an atomic bomb design and may still be conducting relevant research... The agency listed a series of activities applicable to developing nuclear weapons, such as high explosives testing and development of an atomic bomb trigger.

"I think you will see bilateral sanctions increasing," the U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters.

But because of Russian and Chinese opposition, chances are slim for another U.N. Security Council resolution sanctioning Iran for its nuclear program, the official said..., [which leaves] the US with few options but to tighten its own extensive sanctions and try to persuade others to follow suit...

"There is not a whole lot out there other than the oil and gas market -- and you know how sensitive that is. I don't think we are there yet," the US official said.

The United States has long barred U.S. companies from trading with or investing in Iran, including its oil and gas sector. But it also has laws permitting sanctions on non-U.S. companies that develop Iran's energy sector.

Washington has been reluctant to impose such sanctions for fear of a diplomatic backlash from countries [like Russia] whose support it needs to isolate Iran. But members of Congress have been pushing the administration to embrace such penalties.

The House Committee on Foreign Affairs last week... approved legislation requiring sanctions on Iran's central bank if the president finds it is enabling terrorism or the development of nuclear arms or supporting Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps... [However, the US] official played down the chances of sanctioning Iran's central bank, which is the clearinghouse for much of its petroleum trade, the mainstay of the Iranian economy.

"That is off the table" for now, he said. "That could change, depending on what other players (think). I don't want to rule that out but it is not really currently on the table."

The official said there were limits to how much pressure the US, acting on its own, could place on Iran without targeting the petroleum industry or the central bank.

"The reality is that without being able to put additional sanctions into these key areas, we are not going to have much more of an impact than we are already having," he said.

[The US official] acknowledged it was unlikely Russia and China, which hold Security Council vetoes, would back more multilateral sanctions and said it may even be hard to persuade them to support a new IAEA board of governors resolution.

"The reality is getting further sanctions at the U.N. is probably not doable", he said.

Senator John McCain... said the US should be doing more to persuade Russia and China to crack down on Iran.

"This is clearly a rogue nation and for us to sit there and watch the Russians and Chinese veto sanctions which could affect Iranian behavior is in my view not acceptable," McCain told the Reuters Washington Summit.
Is Sen. McCain proposing that the US create a diplomatic backlash with Russia and bring about the demise of Obama's highly touted and much-vaunted "reset button"?

Would Sen. McCain be willing to jeopardize the warm relationship that Obama has established with Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev for the sole purpose of preventing Iran from setting off a few nuclear bombs?!? What's more, as long as Obama's reset button with Russia stays intact, does it really matter how many nuclear bombs Iran detonates?

If McCain were President right now, no doubt he would impose sanctions on Iran's oil and gas market, which would be deeply offensive to our Russian allies.

President Obama, on the flip side, has wisely chosen not to impose sanctions on Iran's energy sector [according to Reuters] "for fear of a diplomatic backlash from countries whose support it needs to isolate Iran," namely Iran's allies: Russia, China etc.

Sen. McCain just doesn't get it: Obama's reset button must be kept intact at all costs, even it entails Iran becoming a nuclear super power and ultimately setting off a few nuclear explosions!

Obama's reset button must be kept intact at all costs, period!

P.S. From a previous post, entitled: Obama resetting relations with Russia? - November 19, 2010:
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met with Russian President Dimitry Medvedev on the sidelines of the Caspian Sea summit on Thursday.

Medvedev issued a statement, saying "Russia seeks to improve its political, economic and even military ties with Iran."

He went on to say that "following the" adoption of the UN "sanctions resolution" certain countries "sought to intensify sanctions against Iran, to which Russia strongly opposed and took stances against it."

Medvedev also proposed that Russia and Iran adopt a joint stance in the international forums.

Ahmadinejad issued a statement saying, "The era of bullying and sanctions is over. “[We] believe that in the current global conditions, if Iran and Russia stand together, the enemies will fail in their plots against Iran, Russia and the region."