The new measures suggest a shift toward efforts to weaken the Iranian economy as a means of pressuring Iran to halt its uranium enrichment program. The US and other Western powers accuse Iran of pursuing its nuclear program, including enrichment, with the goal of developing a nuclear weapon. Iran insists its objectives are purely peaceful and aimed at developing civilian nuclear power.
Iran is a major producer of oil, but is weak on petroleum refinery capacity and must import about 40 percent of its gasoline.
The measures announced Tuesday constitute the first substantial action by the Obama administration under legislation passed in Congress about a year ago. The Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 sought among other things to target Iran’s importing of gasoline, which is seen as the Iranian economy’s Achilles’ Heel.
Earlier this month, in what was interpreted as congressional frustration with the administration, new legislation was introduced to “close loopholes” and speed up the imposing of sanctions on Iran.
“US policy toward Iran has offered a lot of bark, but not enough bite,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R) of Florida, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in a statement announcing the new bill.