President Barack Obama signed into law new unilateral American sanctions on Iran yesterday that go beyond the penalties imposed by the United Nations last month in an effort to escalate the pressure on Tehran to halt its nuclear enrichment program. The law cracks down on federal contractors that conduct business with Iran, and tries to further restrict investment in Iran’s energy sector as well as cut off financing for the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which oversees Iran’s nuclear and missile programs. “With these sanctions, along with others, we are striking at the heart of the Iranian government’s ability to fund and develop its nuclear program,” President Obama said at a bill-signing ceremony. “We’re showing the Iranian government that its actions have consequences. And if it persists, the pressure will continue to mount, and its isolation will continue to deepen.”
U.S. President Barack Obama signs the Iran Sanctions Act at the White House in Washington July 1, 2010.
The new sanctions are designed to hurt Iran where it is most vulnerable – it’s energy sector. While Iran is the world’s fifth-largest oil producer, it lacks sufficient refining capacity and imports up to 40 percent of its gasoline needs. Recognizing its vulnerability, Iran has drawn up plans to become self-sufficient in gasoline output within two years. Nevertheless, dismissing the threat of U.S. sanctions, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran could be self-sufficient in gasoline “within one week” if necessary.
That Congress passed a strong sanctions bill with overwhelming support and President Obama signed it into law just a few days thereafter is momentous. Iran’s nuclear aspirations are arguably the most serious national security threat facing the United States and her allies. Nevertheless, a law is just words written on paper until enforced. The President must now work toward ensuring that these tougher sanctions are put into full effect. In addition, the President should take the time to convince America’s European allies to follow suit.
Signing the sanctions bill into law was just the first step in preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. As U.S. Congressman Mike Pence, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said: “This administration now has the tools to turn back the Iranian regime, but it is up to President Obama to use them.”