Iran Sanctions That Both 'Bite' and 'Cripple'

The Washington Post reports on a set of sanctions that are both "crippling" and "biting:" (I want to hold a contest to see who can come up with the successor to "crippling," when crippling no longer seems hyperbolic enough: "Mauling sanctions," "Eviscerating sanctions"? Then I want to hold a debate to ask the question, Are "eviscerating sanctions" that harm innocent Iranian civilians more or less humane than a surgical military strike on five nuclear facilities?  It's a question worth asking.

In January, China, South Korea and Singapore sharply cut their oil purchases from Iran. Last month, Shipping Corp. of India canceled an Iranian shipment because its European insurers refused to provide coverage for the tanker, according to Lloyd's List. And Japanese oil refiners have asked for clauses to be added to oil-purchase contracts so they can back out if they can't obtain tanker insurance.

"Iran is scrambling to find buyers, but other countries are also scrambling to diversify away from what they see as risky supply," said Richard Meade, editor of Lloyd's List.

In addition, the Angolan state-owned oil company Sonangol recently dropped out of an Iranian project to expand natural gas production in the South Pars field. Sonangol said that sanctions would make it difficult to finance its 20 percent stake in the $7.5 billion project.

There are predictions out there that once the sanctions reach their zenith this summer, as many as 500,000 barrels of Iranian oil will have nowhere to go.

The real question is whether or not summer is enough time. Not very much in the Netanyahu-Obama encounter suggested to me that Israel is going to radically elongate its timeline. More on that later.

UPDATE: Btw, I see that the Europeans are beginning the negotiating process with Iran again. This effort will be ineffectual, I predict, and will do nothing to persuade the Israelis to lengthen their deadline for action.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.