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)
Analysis: If Iran Can’t Hold Human Rights Pledges, How Can it Abide by Nuke Deal?

12th October 2014 – The Jerusalem Post

Analysis: If Iran Can’t Hold Human Rights Pledges, How Can it Abide by Nuke Deal?

Benjamin Weinthal

BERLIN - The award of this week’s Nobel Peace Prize to Taliban victim Malala Yousafzai refocused attention on Iran’s gutting of human rights and its link to a nuclear agreement. more...

Analysis & Commentary

21st October 2014 – The National Interest

A Revival of Sanctions: How to Get Iran to Compromise on a Nuclear Deal

Emanuele Ottolenghi, Saeed Ghasseminejad

The sanctions relief provided by the Obama administration has helped the Iranian economy to the point where Iran doesn't see a need to make concessions on a nuclear deal. Time to increase pressure on Tehran. more...

21st October 2014 – Quoted by Brett Logiurato - Business Insider

Obama Might Try To Circumvent Congress On An Iran Deal — And He’s Already Getting An Earful

Mark Dubowitz

Anonymous Obama administration officials suggested that US President Barack Obama might try to circumvent Congress on approval of any deal with Iran on its nuclear program, prompting bipartisan backlash from members of Congress and from pundits. more...

20th October 2014 – The Hill

The Obama-Khamenei Alliance

Michael Ledeen

Never mind the negotiations with Iran over the Islamic Republic's nuclear weapons program. Far more urgent developments are afoot. more...

20th October 2014 – The Jerusalem Post

Are EU Sanctions Against Iran Beginning to Evaporate?

Benjamin Weinthal

The first Europe-Iran Forum, which took place on Wednesday and Thursday in London, stated its goal as “preparing post-sanctions investment and trade.” more...

From the Hill:
In the News

17th August 2014 – Associated Press

Iran Tells UN Nuclear Chief No Talks On Missiles

17th December 2013 – The Wall Street Journal

Iran Nuclear Deal Talks Expected to Resume This Week

30th September 2013 – The Wall Street Journal

Netanyahu Urges US to Boost Iran Curbs

29th September 2013 – The Wall Street Journal

US Aims to Ease Doubt on Iran Talks

28th September 2013 – Reuters

Iran Makes Payments on Old Loans to World Bank

27th September 2013 – The Washington Post

Iran’s Messenger Has Changed. Its Message Has Not.

22nd September 2013 – The New York Times

Netanyahu Is Said to View Iran Deal as a Possible Trap

18th September 2013 – Platts

Iran to Import ‘a Few Million Liters of Gasoline’ Daily: Zanganeh

17th September 2013 – Shana (Iran)

Iran Building 8 Mini-Refineries

17th September 2013 – Shana (Iran)

Iran Halting Gasoline Imports in Near Future

16th September 2013 – Fars News Agency (Iran)

Oil Minister: 4 South Pars Phases to Come Online in 18 Months

16th September 2013 – Offshore Magazine

Injection Increases Oil Production at Salman Offshore Iran

14th September 2013 – Tehran Times

Iran Offers India to Sign PSA Contract

13th September 2013 – MENAFN

IHS: Iranian Oil Exports Plunge 42% in FY2012

11th September 2013 – Platts

Planned Iran-Oman Gas Pipeline May Take More Than 18 Months: Omani Minister

11th September 2013 – Business Standard (India)

Fresh Problem in Iran Oil Plan

11th September 2013 – Reuters

Iran Oil Minister Replaces State Oil, Gas Chiefs

10th September 2013 – Reuters

Iran’s Rouhani Says Time for Resolving Nuclear Dispute Limited

10th September 2013 – The New York Times

U.S. Eases Sanctions to Allow Good-Will Exchanges With Iran

9th September 2013 – MENAFN

Chinese, South Korean Firms to Participate in Iran’s 1.5 Billion Oil Project