The European Union today approved a new package of sanctions designed to place new economic pressures on Iran, citing "serious and deepening concerns" about Tehran's nuclear arms ambitions.
The EU approved new sanctions that ban imports by member nations of Iranian crude oil and petroleum products. The new sanctions also "outlawed" any imports into the EU of any Iranian petrochemical products, and the export of equipment and technology for use in that sector. The body also decided to freeze the assets of the Iranian Central Bank. In a statement, the European Union pointed to "serious and deepening concerns over the Iranian nuclear program."
The U.S. Congress late last year approved a defense policy bill that also targets Iran's main bank that President Barack Obama has signed into law.
Immediate reaction from Capitol Hill was supportive of the EU's decision.
"I applaud the European Union's decision to join with the United States in expanding sanctions against Iran," said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), chairwoman of the Senate Foreign Relations European Affairs Subcommittee. "It is critical that the United States and Europe work together to keep the pressure on Iran and its nuclear ambitions. Europe and the United States are targeting the Iranian regime where it hurts–in the financial and energy sectors crucial to its nuclear program. I strongly urge Russia and China to join this international effort and to undertake similar measures."
Those two nations have been blocking efforts by the United States to garner approval within the United Nations for new sanctions against Tehran.
Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) said he hopes tougher sanctions against Tehran will convince the stubborn regime there to end its nuclear arms program "because some of the other options are not good for anybody."
"Some of the avenues we're about to be going on with regard to Iran are very dangerous," Forbes said in a telephone interview. "But the only thing more dangerous is them getting a nuclear weapon."
The senior House Armed Services Committee member revealed that the White House has told lawmakers it views the tougher Iran sanctions provision in the defense policy bill are merely "advisory." He and other lawmakers plan to release a letter soon in which they will inform the Obama administration "that the sanctions are mandatory and the administration should implement them."