WASHINGTON - An international naval blockade of Iranian oil exports
should be considered before any resort to air strikes against the
country's disputed nuclear program, the chairman of the US Senate Armed
Services Committee said on Friday.
"That's, I think, one option
that needs to be considered" to boost pressure on Iran to curb its
nuclear program in line with UN Security Council resolutions, Democratic
Senator Carl Levin said in an interview taped for C-SPAN's "Newsmakers"
He said any such blockade should be preceded by lining
up alternative oil supplies to avoid a price spike on world crude
markets. Iran is OPEC's second-largest oil producer and the world's
third-largest petroleum exporter.
Levin was responding to a
question about possible ways of increasing pressure short of combat,
including imposition of a "no-fly zone" over Iran.
"could be very effective," he said. "I think (these are) options that
whoever is willing to participate should explore, including Israel and
including the United States."
Iran is widely suspected of
enriching uranium, and other activities, as a prelude to building
nuclear weapons. Tehran says the program is aimed at producing civilian
The international response to Iran's nuclear
program has evolved into a widespread consensus for substantial
sanctions and other pressure, paired with incentives and diplomacy, to
head off the possible development of nuclear arms.
optimism that increasingly strict sanctions, including an oil purchase
embargo by the European Union to take full effect by July 1, might force
Iran to relent.
"Not because it doesn't want a nuke - I think it
does - but because the price that it's going to have to pay" in terms
of isolation would be too high, said Levin, whose committee has an
oversight role for the US Defense Department.
Levin said US
President Barack Obama should seek congressional authorization before
any US resort to military action against Iran. But he noted that
presidents from both parties had maintained they were not bound to do so
as commander in chief of US armed forces.
A senior Obama
administration official, asked about Levin's remarks, said, "Our focus
remains on a diplomatic solution, as we believe diplomacy coupled with
strong pressure can achieve the long-term solution we seek."
Levin said he would not be surprised if Israel took military action within "months."
would say that a strike is likely" if Iran continues to refuse to curb
its nuclear program, he added. He said US-supported Israeli missile
defense programs had undercut Iran's ability to retaliate against Israel
for any strike.
Asked why Israel alone should be allowed to have
nuclear arms in the region, Levin cited the Holocaust, the genocide of
about 6 million European Jews during World War Two by Nazi Germany, and
what he called similar threats throughout history.
he said, Israel still faced a threat of being wiped out by some of its
neighbors, "so it's a deterrent against that kind of a threat."