Washington, June 28- A series of tough new sanctions is about to take effect against Iran, aimed at forcing the Islamic Republic to abandon its illegal nuclear weapons program.
The European Union will impose an oil embargo and ban insurance for tanker s carrying Iranian oil and other measures that analysts say could slash Iran's foreign sales of oil — its largest source of revenue — by more than half. The U.S. Congress is completing legislation expected to pass early next month that would tighten sanctions further on Iran's oil sector.
The result could be to slash Iran's foreign sales of oil — its largest source of revenue — by more than half. Iran, which has foreign currency reserves of $60 to $100 billion, would lose around $4 billion a month, said experts quoted by The Los Angeles Times.
India, Japan and most other major customers already have begun cutting purchases of Iranian oil, partly because they could face U.S. sanctions if they don't. Japan’s imports of Iranian oil are half what they were this time last year. Another major importer, South Korea, announced earlier this week that it would completely halt its purchases of Iranian oil.
China has reduced imports by around 20-25 percent, according to analysts. The Obama administration faced a Thursday deadline on whether to issue a waiver that would exempt banks and financial institutions from punitive measures that Congress has mandated should be imposed on countries that fail to significantly cut their purchases of Iranian oil.
"Iran is estimated to have lost approximately $10 billion in oil revenue, the Iranian currency has plummeted, and oil output has fallen to a 20-year low - and that is all before the U.S. and EU sanctions go into effect," Sen. Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey, said earlier this month in a statement.
"We've confirmed the details of the sanctions being imposed on Iran," British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Monday. "It is important that the Iranian leaders understand the resolve of the international community on this and that we will go on intensifying the economic pressure."
The new measures being considered by Congress include the following key provisions according to a summary by Reuters:
* Forcing the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or SWIFT, as well as other financial messaging service providers to block all Iranian banks from using networks to help transfer funds electronically.
* Banning third-country entities from accessing electronic banking systems on Tehran's behalf.
* Pushing President Barack Obama to determine whether Iran's main shipping and tanker companies have links to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which would lead to sanctions.
* Imposing sanctions against companies involved in energy-related joint ventures with Iran anywhere in the world established after 2002.
* Punishing U.S. parent companies whose foreign subsidiaries do business with Iran.
* Requiring companies traded on U.S. exchanges to disclose business done with Iran in public filings.
The International Atomic Energy Agency has issued several reports concluding that some Iranian nuclear activities could only be used for developing nuclear weapons despite Iranian claims that its enrichment program is for peaceful purposes,.
Iranian envoy and the P5+1, the six-nation negotiation group comprising of Russia, China, France, Germany, the U.K. and U.S., failed to make progress on the issue in Moscow last week, the third round of major negotiations since January. A lower-level technical meeting is scheduled for early July in Istanbul, but the fate of top-level political talks remains unclear.