New York Times – BRUSSELS — The European Union is considering tough new sanctions against Iran to protest its nuclear program, including banning investment in the oil and gas sector and tightening restrictions on shipping and finance.
The new measures, which are subject to agreement by European Union foreign ministers, cover dozens of senior Iranian officials and companies, and aim to put new pressure on the government in Tehran by cutting off Europe’s investment in major sectors of the Iranian economy.
A draft of the proposed new measures names 41 Iranian people, 57 companies or other entities, 15 additional companies thought to be controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and three deemed to be under the control of the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines.
Senior European diplomats will discuss the proposed sanctions on Thursday. If approved, they are likely to represent a significant tightening of Europe’s economic pressure on Tehran.
“These are tough, substantial measures,” said Mark Fitzpatrick, director of the nonproliferation and disarmament program at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. “The prohibitions on investment in and transfer of equipment and technology to the oil and gas sector is particularly important, as are the draft prohibitions on various financial services, including provision of insurance and reinsurance.”
Last month, European Union leaders agreed in principle to go ahead with tighter measures as part of a two-track strategy to try to deal with Tehran’s nuclear program. While trying to tighten the economic screw, the bloc’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, has also made it clear she is ready for talks with Iran’s chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili.
Thursday’s meeting of European Union diplomats will give the first indication of whether national governments inside the bloc will exert pressure on it to water down its plans. But discussion at a summit meeting of the bloc in June led to a swift agreement on the sectors to be the focus of penalties.
“Under these circumstances, new restrictive measures have become inevitable,” the bloc’s leaders said then in a statement.
The draft, which bans the supply of items needed for nuclear materials, weapons and ammunition, spells out detailed new restrictions for the energy sector. These would bar the “sale, supply or transfer of key equipment and technology” for refinement, liquefied natural gas, exploration or production. European companies would not be able to provide technical or financial help “to enterprises in Iran that are engaged in the key sectors of Iranian oil and gas industry.”
European Union governments would be forced to monitor Iranian banks in their jurisdiction closely. Financial transfers above 35,000 euros, or about $45,000, would require prior authorization.
Iranian banks would be prohibited from opening new branches or subsidiaries in the 27-nation bloc. There would be a ban on providing insurance and reinsurance “to the government of Iran, or to entities incorporated in Iran or subject to Iran’s jurisdiction.”
Countries in the bloc would stop “all cargo flights operated by Iranian carriers or originating from Iran with the exception of mixed passenger and cargo flights.”
The measures, which would be issued next Monday, include a list of senior officials who would be barred from entering the European Union, including Ali Akbar Ahmadian, chief of the Revolutionary Guards joint staff; Morteza Safari, commander of the navy; and Hosein Salimi, commander of the air force.
Money and economic resources owned or controlled by companies and entities regarded as close to the government or controlled by it would be frozen. These include First East Export Bank, Bank Sepah and Bank Sepah International.