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)
Khamenei Threatens Reprisal Over Sanctions

26th November 2016 – FDD Policy Brief

Khamenei Threatens Reprisal Over Sanctions

Behnam Ben Taleblu

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei addressed members of the Basij paramilitary force on Wednesday, doubling down on charges that the U.S. had transgressed last summer’s nuclear deal. more...

Analysis & Commentary

6th December 2016 – Quoted by The Tower

Expert: Don’t Ignore Iran’s Chemical, Biological Weapons Threat While Enforcing Nuclear Deal

Benjamin Weinthal

While President-elect Donald Trump will likely be stricter in enforcing the terms of the nuclear deal with Iran, the incoming administration should not ignore the threat that Iran’s chemical and biological weapons programs pose, Benjamin Weinthal, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, wrote Monday at Forbes. more...

5th December 2016 – Forbes

Don’t Let Iran Off The Hook For Chemical/Biological Weapons

Benjamin Weinthal

The Trump administration will need to be on its toes to enforce the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement—and stop the Islamic Republic’s developing chemical and biological weapons programs. more...

5th December 2016 – Quoted by Adam Kredo - The Washington Free Beacon

Trump Assembling Team of Fierce Iran Deal Opponents

Mark Dubowitz

President-elect Donald Trump has been assembling a national security team stacked with fierce opponents of last year’s comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran, signaling what is expected to be a major departure from the Obama administration’s final bid to preserve the deal before leaving office, according to multiple sources familiar with Trump’s transition plans. more...

3rd December 2016 – Quoted by Joyce Karam - Arab News

Congress and Trump agree to turn the heat up on Iran

Jonathan Schanzer

In Washington, where Democrats and Republicans are bracing for a showdown on a set of healthcare and economic issues, increasing sanctions on Iran appears to be the one legislative item where the two parties and the new President-Elect Donald Trump have found consensus. more...

From the Hill: