Only 24 hours after the European Union ratcheted up its sanctions on Iran and
declared a phased embargo on Iranian oil, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said
Tuesday even stiffer sanctions needed to be imposed.
Barak, in an
interview with Israel Radio, said that while the steps taken were unprecedented
and represented a significant increase of pressure, they still were not enough
to get the Iranian leaders to conclude there was no choice but to end the
country’s nuclear project.
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“In my opinion, we are not there yet,” he
Barak said Israel felt the sanctions timeline needed to be
shortened – the oil embargo will only go into effect on July 1, giving the
Iranians time to find other markets – and that other measures should be taken,
such as forbidding all transactions with Iran’s central bank. On Monday, the EU
decided to freeze Iranian central bank assets.
The decision to delay by
six months imposition of the embargo was taken because the bloc’s foreign
ministers were anxious not to penalize the ailing economies of Greece, Italy and
others for whom Iran is a major oil supplier.
The strategy will be
reviewed in May to see if it should proceed.
Israel’s ambassador to the
UN, Ron Prosor, told the Security Council Tuesday that only the pressure of a
united international community can stop Iran.
“The political and economic
price that Iran will pay must be clear,” he said. “Israel commends the recent
steps taken by the US, the EU, and others in this regard. Although these are
important steps, we all must judge them based on their results. It is time for
the rest of the international community – and this council – to join these
Russia, which sits on the Security Council, slammed the EU’s
harsher sanctions, and China – also a permanent Security Council member – has
repeatedly made clear its opposition to economic sanctions against
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, at a ceremony in Tel Aviv
Tuesday night commemorating 20 years of Israeli- Chinese diplomatic ties, said
he was pleased to hear that Iran had begun reducing its purchase of Iranian
“I appreciate China’s need to ensure a regular energy supply for the
continuation of its impressive development,” he said.
The prime minister
said there were alternatives to Iranian crude, and that he hoped “the Chinese
leadership will join the European countries and work quickly to completely end
its purchase of Iranian oil.”
Senior government officials said the EU
sanctions were a clear indication of the degree to which Europe itself felt
threatened by a nuclear Iran, which has missiles capable of reaching the
continent. The officials said the EU was acting out of a concern for European,
not Israeli, interests.
The officials also dismissed the notion that the
EU might link its imposition of sanctions on Iran with pressure on Israel to
show more flexibility toward the Palestinians.
The issues are not linked,
and there are no signs the EU is trying to link them, they
Meanwhile, Iranian politicians adopted a defiant tone, saying they
expected the European Union to backtrack on its oil embargo, and repeated a
threat to close the vital Strait of Hormuz shipping lane if the West succeeded
in preventing Tehran from exporting crude.
“The West’s ineffective
sanctions against the Islamic state are not a threat to us. They are
opportunities and have already brought lots of benefits to the country,”
Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi told the official IRNA news
“The global economic situation is not one in which a country can
be destroyed by imposing sanctions,” he said, repeating Tehran’s stance that
with the EU in economic and monetary crisis, it needs Iran’s oil more than Iran
needs its business.
Barak dismissed Iran’s threats to close the Straits
of Hormuz, saying it backed away from its threat on Sunday when the US – saying
it would not tolerate the closure of the waterway – sailed an aircraft carrier
through the straits into the Persian Gulf, accompanied by British and French
“The US spoke in the clearest of terms, and the Iranians
folded,” he said.
Barak quoted Turkish President Abdullah Gul as saying a
few weeks ago at a conference in Vienna that the Iranians were a “paper tiger”
with “iron nails.”
“The iron nails are Hezbollah and Hamas,” he said.
“But for all intents and purposes it is a paper tiger. A tiger that talks, but
when it comes to a true test like the Straits of Hormuz, they will be forced to
A spokesman for the Iranian Oil Ministry said the country had had
plenty of time to prepare for the sanctions and would find alternative customers
for the 18 percent of its exports that up to now have gone to the 27-nation
“The first phase of this [sanctions action] is propaganda,
only then it will enter the implementation phase. That is why they put in this
six-month period, to study the market,” Alireza Nikzad Rahbar said, predicting
the embargo could be rescinded before it took force completely.
market will harm them, because oil is getting more expensive and when oil gets
more expensive it will harm the people of Europe,” state TV quoted him as
saying. “We hope that in these six months they will choose the right
Iran’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Danish ambassador on Tuesday
to complain about the EU’s “illogical decision,” accusing Europe of doing the
bidding of the United States.
“Some elements in the European Union,
following America’s policies, are seeking to create tension in relations with
the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Ashghar Khaji told
Ambassador Anders Christian Hougaard.
“Europe should be responsible for
the consequences of these reckless decisions,” he said, according to
Emad Hosseini, spokesman for parliament’s energy committee, said if
Iran encountered any problem selling its oil, it would store it.
don’t export our oil to Europe, our oil will be saved and storage of oil will
not harm us but we will have a rich storage of oil,” he told the semi-official
Fars news agency, adding that Iran retained its threat to shut the Gulf to
Fitch Ratings issued an assessment of the embargo’s market
impact saying it would likely cause an oil price increase.
prices may not necessarily increase markedly from current levels as some of the
risks related to the EU ban on Iranian oil appear factored in already,” it
The embargo decision had no discernible impact on oil prices as it
was a move that had been flagged well in advance and the threat to close Hormuz
seemed remote. Brent crude dropped slightly to $110 per barrel on
US President Barack Obama said on Monday the EU sanctions
underlined the strength of the international community’s commitment to
“addressing the serious threat” presented by the Islamic Republic’s nuclear
“The United States will continue to impose new sanctions to
increase the pressure on Iran,” he said.
Washington applied its own
sanctions to Iran’s oil trade and central bank on December 31, and on Monday
extended them to the third largest Iranian bank, state-owned Bank Tejarat, and a
Belarus-based affiliate for helping Tehran’s nuclear advance.