AFP: Iran has taken steps to blunt possible future global and US sanctions, notably seeking out new sources of gasoline in China and Venezuela, the top US intelligence official said Tuesday. WASHINGTON (AFP) — Iran has taken steps to blunt possible future global and US sanctions, notably seeking out new sources of gasoline in China and Venezuela, the top US intelligence official said Tuesday.
US Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair told key lawmakers that Tehran was "keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons" but that existing sanctions had harmed the Islamic republic's struggling economy.
And Blair said Iran's leaders weighed "Iran's security, prestige and influence" in deciding how to proceed on the country's nuclear program and said the world still had leverage in the standoff.
"We continue to judge Iran's nuclear decision making is guided by a cost-benefit approach, which offers the international community opportunities to influence Tehran," he said.
But "Iran has made contingency plans for dealing with future additional international sanctions by identifying potential alternative suppliers of gasoline — including China and Venezuela," said Blair.
"Tehran also has resorted to doing business with small, non-Western banks and dealing in non-US currency for many financial transactions," he told the Senate Intelligence Committee in a hearing on global threats to US interests.
Blair said Iran's opposition press had reported Iranian forces were involved in smuggling in crude oil "as a way of both skirting and profiting from sanctions.
"Despite these activities and Iran's gasoline subsidy cuts, which could in part serve to mitigate some effects of the embargo, we nonetheless judge that sanctions will have a negative impact on Iran's recovery from its current economic slowdown," he said.
His comments came as the US Congress weighed a sweeping package of sanctions aimed at forcing Iran to freeze its suspect nuclear program, including steps meant to hurt Tehran's ability to import refined petroleum goods like gasoline.
The United States and its Western allies fear Iran is secretly developing fissile material for nuclear weapons under the cover of its uranium enrichment program — a charge denied by Tehran.
As a close ally of Iran with oil interests in the country, China — a permanent member of the UN Security Council — is reluctant to support sanctions.