US President Barack Obama said on Monday that fresh European Union sanctions against Iran underlined the strength of the international community's commitment to "addressing the serious threat presented by Iran's nuclear program."
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"The United States will continue to impose new sanctions to increase the pressure on Iran," Obama said in a statement.
Israel also welcomed the EU’s decision Monday to significantly step up sanctions
against Iran, with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu calling the moves a “step
in the right direction.”
Speaking at a Likud faction meeting, Netanyahu
said that while it was too early to tell what the effect of the sanctions would
be, “strong, quick pressure” on the Islamic Republic was needed.
meeting in Brussels, the EU’s foreign ministers decided to impose a phased ban
on Iranian oil imports, and – among other economic measures – to freeze the
assets of the Iranian central bank.
Netanyahu has been calling for
“crippling” sanctions against Iran, including an embargo of Iranian oil, for
He said that Iran, to this day, was “continuing to build nuclear
weapons without hindrance.”
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, at a
meeting in Vienna of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe,
said he hoped the EU’s sanctions would obviate the need for more, even harsher
“This is an important step that demonstrates Europe’s
understanding and determination to deal with the world’s greatest threat,”
Lieberman said, adding he hoped this would serve as a “warning signal for
Tehran” that would lead to a change in its policies.
Minister Danny Ayalon told The Jerusalem Post
that the effectiveness of the
sanctions could already be evaluated in a number of weeks. Russia, China and
other countries that would continue to import Iranian oil would still not make
up for the massive loss to Iran’s economy as a result of the EU’s move, he
“If there will be a 50 percent drop in Iran’s oil exports it will
be significant,” Ayalon said. “And then whatever they do sell will, from their
standpoint, be sold under less favorable conditions, in terms of price and
The EU’s move indicated that they understand what Israel had
been saying for years: That the Iranian regime was “dangerous, extremist and
determined,” and that only a serious threat to the regime would get its leaders
to alter their behavior, he said.
Ayalon added these steps were important
because they placed the Iranians on the “horns of a dilemma.”
If in the
past the question was what would the West do to stop Tehran, now the Iranian
leaders would be faced with the dilemma: Do they stop their nuclear program, or
continue and face the very real economic and social consequences.
unprecedented effort to take Iran’s 2.6 million barrels of oil per day off
international markets has already had an effect, pushing down Iran’s rial
currency and causing a surge in the cost of basic goods for Iranians. Iran is
the fifth largest oil exporter in the world.
The Obama administration
applauded Europe’s decision and said the United States and its international
partners were committed to preventing Tehran from acquiring nuclear
Europe’s ban on imports of Iranian crude oil and moves to freeze
the assets of Iran’s central bank were “another strong step in the international
effort to dramatically increase the pressure on Iran,” Treasury Secretary
Timothy Geithner and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a joint
Iran on Monday rejected new sanctions imposed by the European
Union on its oil as “psychological warfare,” saying they would worsen the
stand-off over the Islamic state’s nuclear program.
The “European Union
sanctions on Iranian oil are psychological warfare... Imposing economic sanctions is illogical and unfair but
will not stop our nation from obtaining its rights,” Foreign Ministry spokesman
Ramin Mehmanparast was quoted as saying by state television, referring to Iran’s
nuclear energy ambitions.
Also on Monday, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas
Araqchi told the official news agency IRNA that the more sanctions were imposed
on Tehran over its uranium enrichment work, “the more obstacles there will be to
solve the issue.”
One Iranian politician responded by renewing a threat
to blockade the Strait of Hormuz, an oil exporting route vital to the global
economy, and another said Tehran should cut off oil to the EU
That might hurt Greece, Italy and other ailing economies
that depend heavily on Iranian crude and, as a result, won as part of the EU
agreement a grace period until July 1 before the embargo takes full effect. This
is expected to give them ample time to find alternative oil sources.
day after a US aircraft carrier, accompanied by a flotilla that included French
and British warships, made a symbolically loaded voyage into the Gulf in
defiance of Iranian hostility, the widely expected EU sanctions move was likely
to set off further bellicose rhetoric.
As a bloc, the EU is Iran’s
second-biggest customer for crude after China. In addition to the oil embargo and
freeze on the Iranian central bank’s assets, the EU foreign ministers also
banned trade in gold and other precious metals with the bank and state
Following the meeting, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton
said: “I want the pressure of these sanctions to result in
“I want to see Iran come back to the table and either pick
up all the ideas that we left on the table... last year... or to come
forward with its own ideas,” she said.
Iran has said lately that it is
willing to hold talks with Western powers, though there have been mixed signals
on whether conditions imposed by either side make new negotiations
A member of Iran’s influential Assembly of Experts, former
intelligence minister Ali Fallahian, said Tehran should respond to the
delayed-action EU sanctions by stopping sales to the bloc immediately, denying
the Europeans time to arrange alternative supplies and damaging their economies
with higher oil prices.
“The best way is to stop exporting oil ourselves
before the end of this six months and before the implementation of the plan,”
the semiofficial Fars news agency quoted him as saying.
reiterated that Iran could close the Strait of Hormuz.
said it will not tolerate any closure, a position underlined by Sunday’s passage
through the strait of the US flotilla centered around the carrier Abraham
Lincoln, accompanied by two European frigates, Britain’s Argyll and France’s La
While Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, possibly aware of their
impending arrival, had backed away on Saturday from a threat made by a vice
president last month to prevent “even one drop of oil” passing through the
strait if the West embargoed Iran’s crude, a senior member of parliament said on
Monday that the closure remained an option.
“If any disruption happens
regarding the sale of Iranian oil, the Strait of Hormuz will definitely be
closed,” Mohammad Kossari, deputy head of parliament’s foreign affairs and
national security committee, told Fars.
While the Western powers were at
pains to describe their naval movement through the strait as routine, a view
echoed by the Revolutionary Guards, they also stressed its symbolism.
this occasion HMS Argyll and a French vessel joined a US carrier group
transiting through the Strait of Hormuz, to underline the unwavering
international commitment to maintaining rights of passage under international
law,” Britain’s Defense Ministry said in a statement.
In Paris, spokesman
Thierry Burkhard said: “It’s a sign to Iran if they want to consider it like