There is no greater threat to national and international security than the possibility that Iran's current rulers - militant Islamists, terrorist masters and sworn enemies of both the Great Satan and the Little Satan - may acquire nuclear weapons. Recently, a memo by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (leaked to The New York Times) advised the President that the development of a strategy to confront this threat is long overdue.
Obama hoped confrontation could be avoided. He came into office eager to engage the Islamic Republic, to strike a "grand bargain" that would give Iran's theocrats respect and just about anything else they wanted in exchange for their agreement not to develop and wield nukes. More than a year later, this approach has yielded nothing. Iran's rulers don't even want to negotiate.
So a strong bipartisan majority in Congress is pointing Obama in a different direction: Both the House and the Senate have passed bills that would cut off most of the gasoline Iran now imports - and needs -- to keep its sputtering economy from grinding to a halt. A bicameral conference committee is working on a final product - the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act (IRPSA) - soon to be sent to the President to sign into law.
For that bill to be as tough as it can and should be, however, one additional arrow needs to be put in the quiver: an amendment that would prohibit corporations not only from selling shiploads of gasoline to Iran but also from selling any goods, services, technology and information that would assist the regime's development and maintenance of its oil and natural gas infrastructures.
Tehran's need to import, by some estimates, as much as 40 percent of its gasoline from foreign companies is its "Achilles' heel." Why does one of the world's leading exporters of oil need foreign gasoline at all? In large part, because it has focused on building nuclear facilities rather than oil refineries.
IRPSA will extend and expand the 1996 Iran and Libya Sanctions Act (now known as the Iran Sanctions Act, or ISA) to give the President the means to sanction foreign companies involved in almost any aspect of Iran's refined petroleum trade -- including suppliers, insurers, banks, shippers, investors, even those who supply technology and information.
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