Iran Project

Iran Project

Supporting Energy Sanctions Against Iran's Gasoline, Natural Gas and Oil Sectors

As part of a comprehensive strategy to prevent Iran’s leaders from acquiring nuclear weapons, continuing to support terrorist acts and oppressing their own people, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies conducts extensive research on ways to deny the Iranian regime the profits of its energy sector. Through the Iran Energy Project, FDD provides critical research to the United States and several other governments to help them encourage the Iranian regime to abide by its international agreements. Since 2008, this research has helped shape some of the strongest and most effective sanctions ever imposed on Iran.

FDD’s work has informed numerous pieces of Iran sanctions legislation, which were passed with overwhelming bipartisan congressional support, and which are now U.S. law, including the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012 (included as part of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013); the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012; Section 1245 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012; and, the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010.  These laws target Iran's energy, financial, shipping, insurance, commercial, and proliferation activities, and the regime's human rights abuses.  The legislative measures are widely viewed as the most robust U.S. measures yet imposed against the Iranian regime. European and Canadian officials also relied on FDD research to inform their complementary sanctions policies.

In March 2009, The Wall Street Journal credited “the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that has brought the idea of gasoline sanctions to political attention.”

Beyond gasoline, the Iran Energy Project also seeks to reduce the amount of oil revenue the Iranian regime can devote to advancing its illicit nuclear program and repressing its citizens. As part of this effort, FDD has performed studies on sanctioning Iran’s Central Bank, the role of the IRGC in Iran’s energy sector, and the impact of a worldwide Iranian Oil Free Zone. 

Pursuing further limits on Iran’s financial sector, FDD experts supported sanctions on Iranian banks, and sought to deny the Islamic Republic the ability to use the international Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) to conduct financial transactions. Among other things, Tehran used SWIFT to sell oil, raise capital for its energy sector, and procure energy-related equipment and technology. In 2010 alone, 19 Iranian banks and 25 Iranian entities reportedly used SWIFT more than 2 million times. These transactions, The Wall Street Journal noted, amounted to $35 billion in trade with Europe alone.

In February 2012, the Journal editorialized on SWIFT, praising “Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which has done most of the spadework on the issue.”

As a result of these sanctions, major suppliers of gasoline have exited the Iranian market, gasoline shipments to Iran have dropped by 90 percent, and international businesses have terminated or frozen over $60 billion in energy-related investments.

In early 2012, sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran led to an acute crisis of confidence in the Iranian rial, causing its value to plummet by over 50 percent. Statistics released by the International Energy Agency in February 2012 showed that Iran had already started to lose oil revenues.

According to the Energy Information Administration, Iranian oil revenues for 2012 were $69 billion, down from $95 billion in 2011.

FDD provided extensive research and championed measures dealing with energy, shipping, banking, insurance, nonproliferation, and human rights abuses in both Iran and Syria included in the recently passed Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012. The legislation closed significant loopholes in U.S. law and tightened American sanctions in key areas.

FDD Senior Fellow Emanuele Ottolenghi has written two books on the threat of Iran, Under a Mushroom Cloud: Europe, Iran and the Bomb (Profile Books, 2009), and The Pasdaran: Inside Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (FDD Press, 2011).

FDD will continue to study and pursue new and creative ways to increase pressure on the Iranian regime as part of its ongoing efforts to prevent further human rights violations, support for terrorism, and unlawful nuclear activities.

“As Iran continues its pursuit of nuclear weapons, FDD has emerged as one of the most innovative thinks tanks in Washington when it comes to developing effective policies to stop the Islamic Republic before it’s too late. The kind of time-sensitive research, analysis and expertise that FDD provides the Congress is simply invaluable.”
– Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL)

“In particular, FDD has been one the most committed and creative voices in Washington regarding the Iran nuclear issue and specifically Iran sanctions. Your ideas inspired important components of the sanctions bill I authored and passed last Congress when I was Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and your ideas continue to enrich my thinking about sanctions as we move forward. My recent conversation in my office with Mark Dubowitz was one of the most enlightening I’ve had regarding Iran sanctions and oil markets.”
– Representative Howard Berman (D-CA)
Legitimizing Iran’s Nuclear Program with a Broader Conclusion

27th June 2016 – FDD Research

Legitimizing Iran’s Nuclear Program with a Broader Conclusion

Olli Heinonen

This January, Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) embarked on the difficult road towards Transition Day – October 18, 2023, or earlier if the IAEA can reach a Broader Conclusion that all of Iran’s nuclear materials and facilities are for peaceful purposes and it is not engaged in any undeclared nuclear activities. There are several incentives for Iran to try to reach Transition Day long before the eight-year mark. more...

Analysis & Commentary

30th June 2016 – Quoted by Sune Engel Rasmussen, Zahra Nader - The Guardian

Iran covertly recruits Afghan Shias to fight in Syria

Amir Toumaj

Iran is covertly recruiting hundreds of Afghan Shias in Afghanistan to fight for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, drawing them out of their own conflict-ridden country and into another war in which Afghanistan plays no official part. more...

29th June 2016 – Quoted by Adam Kredo - The Washington Free Beacon

White House Emerges as Iran’s Top ‘Lobbying Shop’

Mark Dubowitz

Obama administration officials are orchestrating an international campaign to encourage businesses and governments to reengage in the Iranian marketplace, prompting accusations from leading members of Congress that the White House is behaving as the Islamic Republic’s top global “lobbying shop,” according to conversations with lawmakers and multiple sources tracking the issue. more...

28th June 2016 – Forbes

Risky Business In Iran

Mark Dubowitz, Toby Dershowitz

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the intergovernmental organization that sets global standards to combat money laundering and finance for terrorism and proliferation, had a clear message for financial institutions last week when it declined to remove the Islamic Republic of Iran from its high-risk blacklist: Iran may say it’s open for business but it’s not yet safe to do it. more...

27th June 2016 – FDD Research

EU-Iran Nuclear Cooperation: The Case for Stronger Safety and Nonproliferation Standards

Olli Heinonen

The constraints imposed on Iran’s activities under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) curb Tehran’s nuclear program for eight to 15 years. The key restrictions on the program, however, disappear over time, leaving Tehran with an industrial-size nuclear program with near-zero nuclear breakout time and an easier, advance-centrifuge-powered clandestine “sneak out” time. more...

From the Hill: