Nearly 7,000 supporters of Israel will assemble at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Annual Policy Conference in Washington May 3-5 to work with their representatives in Congress to enact tough new sanctions against Iran and its gasoline suppliers.
The sanctions are another attempt to avert a military confrontation between Jerusalem and Teheran over the latter’s nuclear ambitions. Iran has consistently threatened to “wipe Israel off the map” and to block the strategic oil passage at the Strait of Hormuz which would immobilize the American economy within weeks.
The AIPAC conference is considered one of Washington’s most significant political and constituent gatherings, attended by thousands of Israel advocates from across the nation and scores of Senators, House Representatives and key administrative officials and diplomats in a massive show of solidarity with Israel. Last year’s historic event, which will undoubtedly overshadow the conference for years to come, saw John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama all appearing prominently during the apex of the superheated political campaign. Indeed, Clinton and Obama passed each other backstage. This year, the focus is not elections but thwarting Iran’s nuclear program.
At the heart of the latest sanctions to be pushed at the event are two measures. The Iran Sanctions Enabling Act of 2009 (H.R. 1327) authorizes state and local governments to divest their pension funds from companies on the list. At the same time, it protects fund managers who divest from companies from lawsuits directed at them by unhappy investors.
Perhaps more important is the bipartisan Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act (IRPSA), introduced by 27 senators, which would limit Iran's ability to import and produce refined petroleum products by requiring the president to impose sanctions on companies providing refined petroleum to Iran or helping Iran expand its own refining capacity. Iran is the world’s second largest importer of refined gasoline. The nation is awash in oil, but the dearth of refinery capacity makes the nation prone to embargo.
Despite having refining capacity of 1.5 million barrels per day, Iran imports around 140,000 b/d of gasoline, most of which is shipped in 30,000-35,000 ton cargoes to the Persian Gulf port of Bandar Abbas.
IRPSA would force the Iran regime to choose between an internationally condemned and sanctioned nuclear program and further economic ruin. The newest harsh and sweeping measures would require the president to impose sanctions on any entity that provides Iran with refined petroleum resources or contributes to same. A central target of the measure would be six firms that form the mainstay of Iran’s gasoline imports despite global sanctions. The six are Vitol, Glencore International, the Swiss/Dutch firm Trafigura, France's Total, British Petroleum and India's Reliance Industries.
But more than just the oil companies, the measure targets oil cargo shipping corporations, their insurers or reinsurers, the financial entities and or brokers involved, and even drilling machine component suppliers. Those companies would be effectively barred from doing business in the United States by prohibiting their financial transactions in America, and blocking any American or American financial institution from any transaction involving so sanctioned an entity. Moreover, once declared in violation, the entity’s assets would be frozen.
Many are calling the IRPSA one of America’s last-ditch diplomatic efforts to derail Iran’s nuclear weaponization.
The International Atomic Energy Agency recently admitted that it had underestimated Iran’s nuclear stockpile by about one-third. The watchdog group now confirms Iran possesses more than 2,227 lbs. of nuclear material, sufficient to create at least one nuclear bomb. That stockpile includes 1,010 kilograms of low-enriched uranium hexafluoride, or approximately 700 kilograms containing the vital uranium 235 isotope, the stuff needed to weaponize.
Iran has ramped up its enrichment program with thousands of new home-grown, highly advanced centrifuges. As The Cutting Edge News reported in April 2008, Iran wants 6,000 centrifuges to speed the enrichment of weapons grade material. The number of working centrifuges now exceeds 5,400, including 164 new centrifuges believed to be the faster and more efficient IR-2 and IR-3 models made in Iran. These new Iranian centrifuges are at least as sophisticated as its recently imported P-2 centrifuges.
American policymakers are now convinced that Iran, despite all protests and charades, is in a mad dash to create a deliverable nuclear weapon. The Obama Administration has openly abandoned the assertions of the CIA’s much-questioned 2008 National Intelligence Estimate that concluded Iran was not pursuing nuclear weaponry for the simple reason that its atomic program and military programs were housed in separate buildings.
Israeli countermeasures to date have included a massive international covert program of equipment sabotage, assassination of key nuclear personnel, and a vibrant diplomatic offensive. But all these efforts combined amount to nothing more than delaying tactics as Iran is irrevocably determined to achieve a nuclear weapon as fast as possible. Many believe such a weapon will be used to fulfill its prediction that Israel will soon be wiped off the map.
Edwin Black is the New York Times best selling investigative author of IBM and the Holocaust, and a book about an oil interruption arising from an Israeli-Iranian confrontation, The Plan: How to Save America When the Oil Stops—or the Day Before (Dialog Press).He is the editor of The Cutting Edge News.