The U.S. is strongly pressuring its ally South Korea to reduce its crude oil imports from Iran, as Washington tries to unite the world in harsh economic sanctions against Iran for a nuclear weapons program that doesn’t exist.
South Korea already has restricted financial dealings with more than 200 groups and individuals with suspected links to Iran’s nuclear program, but they rely on Iran for up to 10 percent of their oil supplies and have not yet said whether they will comply with the embargo on oil imports.
The European Union also imports a lot of oil from Iran, but is considering an embargo after intense U.S. pressure. Many EU governments are facing severe economic crises and are hesitant to impose additional self-inflicted economic pain on their own countries by abiding by U.S. demands to ban Iranian oil.
And now South Korea, too, is being asked to strain their own economy by reducing or eliminating Iranian imports. This, despite there being no evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program. Notwithstanding hawkish rhetoric and media coverage, the opinion of the U.S. intelligence community, the Obama administration, and the latest IAEA report is that Iran’s enrichment is so far civilian in nature.
“We’re urging all of our partners to help us, to work with us in putting pressure on the government of Iran, to get it to negotiate seriously,” Robert Einhorn, the State Department’s special adviser for nonproliferation and arms control, told reporters in Seoul after a meeting with senior South Korean Foreign Ministry officials.
The harsh sanctions on Iran’s oil and banking industries are widely expected to have crippling effects on the economy and thus the well-being of ordinary Iranians who rely on the country’s natural resource market to spur economic growth. Many have pointed to similar sanctions regimes heaped on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq during the 1990s, which left the country destitute and led to hundreds of thousands of deaths.