According to a report issued by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a group of senators has introduced legislation that would allow President Barack Obama to impose sanctions on foreign fuel suppliers to Iran.
U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., organized the initiative.
“I’m very proud of the breadth of the coalition that has come together,” said Mr. Lieberman, who serves as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
The legislation would grant presidential powers to impose sanctions on gasoline and refined petroleum imported to Iran. Mr. Lieberman said liberal and conservative members of the Senate supported the bill.
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The Obama administration is expected to oppose the legislation, titled the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act. Mr. Obama has launched a dialogue meant to reconcile with the Islamic regime in Tehran.
The cosponsors of the legislation, introduced on Tuesday, include: U.S. Sens. Evan Bayh, Barbara Boxer, Susan Collins, Russell Feingold, Jon Kyl, Barbara Mikulski, James Risch, Charles Schumer and John Thune. In all, the legislation has garnered 20 co-sponsors, both Democrats and Republicans. U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., has introduced similar legislation in the House.
“We must not allow anyone to mistake our willingness to engage with the Iranians as a sign of weakness, least of all, the Iranians themselves,” Mr. Lieberman told AEI on Monday. “Yet frankly, that is precisely the conclusion that some in Iran and elsewhere in the region are drawing.”
Mr. Lieberman said the bill would amend the 1996 Iran Sanctions Act, which called for a boycott of companies that invest $20 million or more in Iran’s energy sector.
The new legislation would allow the president to sanction foreign companies involved in the sale of fuel, fuel delivery insurance and maintenance of Iranian refineries.
“The logic behind our approach is simple,” Mr. Lieberman said. “Although blessed with immense oil wealth, Iran – due to the economic mismanagement of its leaders – lacks the capacity to meet its domestic demand for gasoline and other refined petroleum products. As a result, it must rely heavily on imports for as much as 40 percent of its gasoline needs.”
Mr Lieberman said the proposed sanctions would reassure U.S. allies in the Middle East, under threat from Iran and its nuclear weapons program. He said both Israel and Arab states have agreed on the Iranian threat.
“In the Middle East today, there is an unprecedented convergence of concerns about Iran among Arabs and Israelis alike,” Mr. Lieberman said. “The question is whether we can seize this moment to help usher into place a new strategic architecture for the Middle East – not necessarily a formal alliance, at least initially, but a series of understandings, arrangements, and policies that strengthen the sovereignty and security of the states that
are being threatened by Iranian extremism and expansionism, and that can bind them closer together until the day they are ready to become formal allies.”
David Bedein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org