EU plans new round of hard-hitting sanctions on Iran

Latest restrictions will ban financial transactions, export of metals, and ship building technologies

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A construction site in Yazd, Iran, in 2012. (photo credit: CC BY  Paul Keller, Flickr)
A construction site in Yazd, Iran, in 2012. (photo credit: CC BY Paul Keller, Flickr)

The European Union is scheduled to introduce a new round of harsh sanctions against Iran Monday, marking a significant escalation in restrictions on the Islamic Republic.

Foreign ministers were expected to approve the new sanctions, aimed at stopping Iran’s nuclear program, during a meeting in Luxembourg on Monday.

The new sanctions will ban financial transactions and the export of metals and graphite used in the steel industry. European firms will also be banned from providing ship building and oil storage technologies, and Europe will cut off its supply of Iranian natural gas.

Humanitarian aid products, food, and medical supplies will not be affected by the sanctions.

In the past, European countries have leaned toward specific restrictions against particular companies or items in an attempt to limit the impact of sanctions on the civilian population. However, in an important change in policy, the new sanctions will extensively cover the Iranian economy and even permitted transactions will require authorization from European governments, Reuters reported.

On Sunday, Haaretz reported that Sweden was opposed to the new round of sanctions, fearing the loss of lucrative business ties with Iran and other countries. Jerusalem and other European capitals are attempting to convince Stockholm to drop its opposition, according to the report, which quoted an unnamed Foreign Ministry source in Jerusalem.

Iran is already hampered by sanctions restricting the export of oil and certain technologies, leveled by Europe and the US over the past several months. The latest round is intended to ramp up pressure on Tehran to curb or abandon its nuclear program, which is widely believed to be for military purposes.

Iranian officials have admitted the international sanctions regime has had a crippling affect on its economy, though leaders have vowed to overcome the restrictions, calling it “psychological pressure.”

The Iranian rial has lost some two-thirds of its value against the dollar in the last several weeks, leading to quickly quashed protests in Tehran’s politically volatile bazaar late last month. On Sunday, Tehran said it would reduce imports of non-essential goods and introduce other austerity measures in a bid to cope with the sanctions.

The US has pointed to the rial’s drop as proof of the sanctions’ efficacy.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said recently that sanctions were proving effective on Iran, though politicians in Jerusalem maintain that the restrictions are not doing enough to push Iran away from developing a nuclear bomb.

Sanctions are widely seen as the last chance to stop Iran before Israel engages in military action in an attempt to set Tehran’s program back. At the United Nations last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Iran was nearing an enrichment level that would allow it to build a nuclear weapon.

On Saturday, a spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry said Tehran was willing to be more flexible in upcoming nuclear talks. Israel has called the talks, which have lasted several rounds with no progress, a stalling tactic.


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