The New York Times reports: President Obama said on Friday that there is enough oil in world markets to allow countries to rely less on imports from Iran, a step that could increase Western actions to deter Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
Mr. Obama is required by law to decide by March 30, and every six months after, whether the price and supply of non-Iranian oil is sufficient to allow for countries to cut their oil purchases from Iran.
Mr. Obama’s decision was announced Friday afternoon in a conference call. He made the decision after consultations with a number of oil exporters that had agreed to increase production. The decision comes even as gas prices have risen in recent months, a rise that his political advisers say could hamper his re-election efforts.
The new sanctions, passed as part of the defense budget and mandated by the Senate in a rare 100-to-0 vote, penalize foreign corporations or other entities that purchase oil from Iran’s central bank, which collects payment for most of the country’s energy exports. The penalties are meant to pressure Iran to curb its nuclear program.
The law includes loopholes that allow Mr. Obama to waive the measures if they threaten national security or if gas prices increase.
Gas prices in the United States have climbed about 19 percent this year on worries about a confrontation with Iran, investor speculation about higher prices and other factors. A gallon of gas currently costs an average of $3.93, up from about $3.30 a gallon in December. The rising prices have weighed on economic confidence and cut into household budgets, a concern for an Obama administration seeking re-election.