OpinionIran in the World PressAnalysis: one sanction that might work

Analysis: one sanction that might work

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ImageThe Times: There is probably only one sanction that could bring Iran to its knees and stop Tehran developing a nuclear weapon. Time is running out — but that sanction is not even on the table in talks at the United Nations. The Times

James Bone

ImageThere is probably only one sanction that could bring Iran to its knees and stop Tehran developing a nuclear weapon. Time is running out — but that sanction is not even on the table in talks at the United Nations.

A blanket ban on Iran’s import of refined petroleum products would target the Islamic Republic’s Achilles’ heel. Iran has the world’s second largest proven oil reserves, at around 11 per cent of the global total. Its lack of oil refineries means, however, that it imports about 40 per cent of its refined petroleum products — so an import ban would starve the country of petrol.

Both chambers of the US Congress have passed legislation targeting Iran’s petrol imports, though the two versions need to be reconciled in a conference between House and Senate, and then to be signed by the President.

But such sanctions will work only if every nation is bound by them. At the United Nations, which remains the only body with power to impose truly global sanctions, diplomats are not discussing a ban.

Despite Hillary Clinton’s brave talk of “crippling sanctions,” even Western powers shy away from a UN embargo that could hurt the Iranian population. The US has prepared a confidential “wish list” for a fourth round of UN sanctions. It includes the power to seize Iranian ships caught smuggling banned weapons components, a comprehensive arms embargo, and a total boycott of the Revolutionary Guards. But the only measures targeting the energy sector are curbs on new investment in Iran’s oil and natural gas industries.

Ambassadors from Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the United States — known as the “E3+3” — are due to resume negotiations today in New York. But China and Russia have already said no to most of the US proposals.

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