Merry Christmas, Iran–and Happy New Year

In a friendly preemptive parry, the U.S. slapped Iran with the proverbial glove, this time in the form of refined petroleum sanctions passed 412-12 by the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday. The bill sanctions any company that partakes in the “development of petroleum resources of Iran, production of refined petroleum products in Iran, and exportation of refined petroleum products to Iran.” Let’s pause and think about how many companies we’re talking about, and whether the big ones–Royal Dutch Shell, Total, Lukoil, Zhuhai Zhenrong–will sacrifice lucrative business with Iran at risk of being cut off from U.S. government contracts. Moreover, were China and Russia to participate in the gas restrictions, they would inevitably lose economic investments in Iran.

Apparently, the sanctions–which even the bill’s sponsor (Rep. Howard Berman, D-CA) acknowledged will have “a significant impact on the Iranian economy, including quite possibly on average Iranians,”–are meant, as blanket economic sanctions usually are, to fire up Iranian citizens, get them in the streets, provoke them into–ah, yes: the same action they’ve been attempting to take since the election. Except this time the clear antagonist won’t be Ahmadinejad.

Putting aside the questionable efficacy of blanket sanctions as a method of gently prodding nations into reform, the bill itself is a fairly shoddy piece of legislation, as indicated by Americans For Peace Now’s letter to the House requesting that it oppose HR 2194. The letter includes a link to a section-by-section analysis of the bill and amendments to make it more palatable. A frequent objection to the bill seems to be its astounding subversion of presidential will–its semantics are explicit in their direction that “the President shall impose the sanctions…” and it essentially forces President Obama to seek a waiver from Congress in every case that the sanctions would not be imposed.

That the bill was passed in the House is not surprising; its Senate equivalent, which was meant to be hotlined through as though it were a paltry matter of route business, may be waiting for the new year.

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