April 29, 2009

BIPARTISAN SENATE COALITION SEEKS TO BROADEN PRESIDENT'S AUTHORITY TO SANCTION IRAN

Legislation strengthening President Obama's diplomatic hand targets Iran's dependence on imported gasoline and refined petroleum

Washington, DC - U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today joined a bipartisan coalition of 25 U.S. Senators introducing legislation to provide the president with expanded authority to stop Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons.  The Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act explicitly empowers the president to impose new economic sanctions on foreign firms involved in the export of gasoline and other refined petroleum products to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Despite its immense oil reserves, Iran currently lacks the refining capacity to meet domestic consumption and must import as much as 40 percent of its gasoline from abroad. During the presidential campaign, President Obama endorsed the strategy of using Iran's dependence on foreign gasoline imports as leverage in the existing nuclear dispute. The legislation expands the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 to give the president the authority to do so. 

"I respect and support the great Iranian people, many of whom want peaceful relations with the United States and the international community.  However, the current government in Iran has oppressed its people, supported the murder of American soldiers in Iraq, called for the destruction of Israel, and supported terrorist organizations to destabilize its neighbors in the region.  The international community cannot allow such a government to ever acquire nuclear weapons capabilities," said Senator Cardin. "I support President Obama's efforts to reach out a diplomatic arm to Iran. This bill gives him the tools he needs to negotiate from a position of strength, demonstrating real consequences for their actions. 

The legislation targets foreign companies that sell gasoline or other refined petroleum products to Iran; firms that provide ships, shipping services, or insurance for this trade; those that finance or broker such activity; as well as those assisting Iran's effort to increase its domestic refining capacity. The legislation also authorizes stronger penalties against these firms, including a ban on conducting business in the United States.

The Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act was introduced by Senators Evan Bayh (D-IN), Joe Lieberman (ID-CT), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Kit Bond (R-MO), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Richard Burr (R-NC), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Susan Collins (R-ME), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), James Inhofe (R-OK), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Patty Murray (D-WA), James Risch (R-ID), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), John Thune (R-SD), David Vitter (R-LA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), as well as Senator Cardin.