OTTAWA, Canada -- As Congress gears up to adopt long-stalled legislation to sanction foreign suppliers of refined petroleum products to Iran, Canadian lawmakers added their voices to a growing worldwide movement to step up economic and diplomatic pressure on Tehran.
The Canadian pressure came Tuesday, when Parliament unanimously passed a resolution that directed the government to support the pro-democracy movement in Iran.
The Canadian resolution condemned “the use of violence and force by Iranian authorities against their own people” during the pro-democracy demonstrations this past summer, and called on the Canadian government to urge the United Nations and other international organizations to craft “a new set of targeted sanctions” against Iran.
Shortly before the measure was adopted, conservative MP Jason Kenney told a conference the Canada-Israel Committee hosted near Ottawa that the government was rigorously applying sanctions contained in three U.N. Security Council resolutions on Iran, including an assets freeze on Iranian entities engaged in missile and nuclear development.
Canada has loosened visa requirements for Iranian dissidents seeking asylum, while closing its doors to members of the Revolutionary Guards Corps and its Bassij militia.
“Members of the IRGC, the Quds Force and the Bassij are inadmissible to Canada, and our offices work diligently to identify them,” said Kenney, Canada’s minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism.
Rabbi Shimon Fogel, the CEO of the Canada Israel Committee, urged the Canadian government to “get out in front” of other G-8 nations to lead international efforts to impose crippling sanctions on Iran.
“Our demand is that Canada be the leader it can be to defeat the powers of darkness that rule Iran,” he said.
Many analysts see Iran’s dependence on imported gasoline as a chokepoint that could inflict serious damage the Iranian regime.
“While sanctions are not a silver bullet, they may be silver shrapnel. And shrapnel also can inflict real damage,” said Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
Until recently, Iran imported more than 40 percent of its gasoline from just seven suppliers, so many analysts see its reliance on imported gasoline as a potential chokepoint that can be the focus of targeted sanctions.
Although Iran recently signed agreements to expand refined petroleum imports from China and Venezuela and is working to convert buses and trucks to run on widely-available liquefied natural gas (LNG), it still has a long way to go before it can make up for supplies cut off by sanctions, Dubowitz told Newsmax.
“The bottom line is, Iran is still vulnerable,” he said.
But Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., the powerful chairman of the House Foreign Affairs committee in Washington, said he viewed the gasoline sanctions as just “the fourth-best option” to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons — hardly a rousing endorsement for legislation he personally introduced.
Before resorting to more U.S. sanctions, Berman said he wanted to see the Obama administration’s diplomatic efforts succeed. Barring that, he preferred “hard-hitting multilateral sanctions endorsed by the U.N. Security Council.”
If the U.N. fails to act, as most observers believe will be the case, then Berman said his next option would be “to work with a group of like-minded nations” to impose similar sanctions.
Only then, he said, would he favor the sanctions bill he introduced in April, which has gained co-sponsorship of more than 330 House members 73 senators.
The Obama White House has intervened forcefully and repeatedly with Berman and with Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, to get them to put Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act on indefinite hold.
“All of us are aware that if the provisions of this bill are ever implemented, they would likely have a significant impact on the Iranian economy, including quite possibly on average Iranians,” Berman said on Wednesday.
“While that is a distasteful prospect, the urgency of dealing with the Iranian nuclear project — and the immense danger that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose to tens, if not hundreds, of million people who will fall within the range of its missiles — compels us to go forward with this legislation,” he said.
At the urging of ranking member Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., and others, Berman agreed last night to include a host of new measures in the sanctions bill. Among them are requirements that the administration report to Congress on sanctionable activities, and that the secretary of state assist former American hostages seized in Iran in 1979 to achieve “full compensation” for their injuries.
The Canadian parliament also is considering legislation that would include additional measures beyond those contained in the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act.
Liberal Party MP Irwin Cotler believes the Iranian regime should be held accountable for its repeated threats of genocide toward Israel, its support for international terrorism and for its gross human rights violations as well as for its nuclear weapons program.
“Engagement cannot be limited to the nuclear threat alone, otherwise we run the risk of sanitizing the other three threats,” Cotler said.
If the United States and its Western partners focus solely on Iran’s outlawed uranium enrichment program they will “embolden this regime by abandoning the people of Iran.” The Iranian regime “poses a clear and present danger not just to Israel but to the Middle East, the world, and the people of Iran itself.”
Cotler is trying to win support from the conservative government for more comprehensive sanctions that would affect Iranian banks, suppliers of refined petroleum products, oil and gas investment, the IRGC, and foreign companies that provide surveillance technology.
Stopping the Iranian regime from achieving its genocidal ambitions “should not be a partisan cause,” he said.
France and Britain also have been urging the Obama administration to take more serious action toward Iran.
"I support America's 'extended hand,'” French President Nicolas Sarkozy said this month, after the first round of U.S.-Iran talks in Vienna.
“But what have these proposals for dialogue produced for the international community?" Sarkozy said. "Nothing but more enriched uranium and more centrifuges. And last but not least, it has resulted in a statement by Iranian leaders calling for wiping off the map a Member of the United Nations. What are we to do? What conclusions are we to draw? At a certain moment hard facts will force us to make decisions."
The French have been pressing for tougher United Nations sanctions and, if that fails, possible military action against Iran.
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