Sanctions on Iran: UK and US dither

The last couple of days have seen both Democrat and Labour politicians voicing exasperation at their opposite numbers’ apparent lack of toughness on the question of sanctions against Iran.

It seems that Britain, concerned by the possible impact on global oil prices, is trying to delay implementing a ban on providing protection and indemnity insurance for Iranian oil tankers, an important element in the sanctions against Iran’s nuclear programme.  When questioned by John Woodcock in the House of Commons on 15 May, William Hague did not deny this. The Shadow Foreign Secretary, Douglas Alexander, pressed him on this:

There were many words, but not many answers. Given the Foreign Secretary’s remarks, I think that oil prices are a material consideration in determining the timing on when Britain chooses to impose sanctions on Iran. I would be very grateful if the Minister could confirm where the balance of authority on this lies within Government and whether this is a decision being led by the Treasury or the Foreign and Commonwealth Office because many allies and many in the international community will have been troubled by the Foreign Secretary’s remarks. If some of the reports—they are only reports—are to be believed that Britain is one of the back markers and that this is being driven by a view from within the Treasury, that would be of great concern to Members on both sides of the House.

Meanwhile in the US Republicans have been delaying signing a new agreement on sanctions, aimed to close loopholes:

“Time is of the essence,” declared Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey), who has been championing the bill. “We must send to the Iranians a clear message that you cannot just forestall negotiations and have negotiations thinking that you are buying time. We must show them that notwithstanding their intentions to buy time, there are consequences.”

Republican Senator Rand Paul wanted to introduce an amendment to ensure that nothing in the bill “shall be construed as a declaration of war or an authorization of use of force against Iran or Syria.”