Saturday

15th May 2021

US senators warn Ashton on risk of Iran war

  • (Photo: jonkeegan)

US senators have warned EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton that Iran's alleged nuclear weapons programme risks igniting a military confrontation.

"Iran's nuclear progamme is moving forward - sharply increasing the risks of either a military confrontation or other countries in the Middle East pursuing their own nuclear arsenals," eight cross-party senators said in a letter sent to the EU's top diplomat on Tuesday (10 January).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

They urged Europe to press ahead with sanctions on Iran's most valuable export - oil, with EU foreign ministers set to decide on a possible embargo at a meeting on 23 January.

The senators also want the EU to impose sanctions against the Central Bank of Iran, its main financial intermediary.

"As you know, the Central Bank of Iran has been carrying out illicit and deceptive financial activities that are supporting the Iranian government's advancing nuclear programme," the letter said.

The United States, Canada and the United Kingdom have already taken steps against the bank. With Europe on board, the US hopes to force Tehran into dropping its nuclear programme while encouraging non-Iranian oil exporters to make up the difference.

For its part, Iran says its nuclear progamme is peaceful and will be used to generate electricity for internal consumption, allowing them to export more oil instead of burning it for domestic needs.

It has made a number of threats in the run-up to the EU embargo decision, including a military blockade of the Strait of Hormuz (an export route for Saudi oil) - a potential development which could see world oil prices go up by 50 percent, according to The New York Times.

It recently test-fired various types of missiles, announced the production of its first nuclear fuel rod and warned the US not to send warships to the Persian Gulf.

The EU imports 5.8 percent of its crude from Iran. Greece, Italy and Spain are the biggest buyers, with Greece importing around 35 percent of its consumption from the pariah state.

The US letter comes at a critical moment.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on Tuesday that Iran has started to enrich uranium at a fortified nuclear site.

"Iran has started the production of uranium enriched up to 20 percent" in the Fordo Fuel Enrichment Plant, IAEA spokesman Gill Tudor told Bloomberg in an email.

Highly enriched uranium is a necessary ingredient to create fission nuclear weapons. Weapons-grade uranium is enriched to 90 percent. The IAEA in November said it has evidence that Iran is aiming to build such a weapon.

In October, Ashton sent a letter to the Iranian leadership asking to restart talks after an almost year-long gap. She is still waiting for a response.

The US letter addressed to Ashton was signed by senators Joseph I. Libermann, Mark Kirk, John Kyl, Marco Rubio, Robert Menedez, Charles E. Schumer, Robert P. Casey, Jr. and Kirsten E. Gillibrand.

EU countries preparing oil ban on Iran

A Greek official has indicated that Athens would back an oil embargo on Iran, setting the stage for a positive decision by EU countries at the end of the month.

Iranian oil, gold and banks on EU hitlist

An oil embargo from 1 July, a partial ban on the central bank and a prohibition on trade in gold are among the latest EU ideas on how to stop Iran building nuclear bombs.

News in Brief

  1. No EUobserver newsletter on Friday 14 May
  2. Germany stops Facebook gathering WhatsApp data
  3. Italy rebuts reports of EU deal with Libya
  4. MEPs demand EU states protect women's reproductive rights
  5. At least nine dead in Russia school shooting
  6. Bulgaria interim government appointed until July election
  7. German priests defy pope to bless same-sex couples
  8. New EU public prosecutor faults Slovenia

Opinion

Why Russia politics threaten European security

Russia could expand hostile operations, such as poisonings, including beyond its borders, if it feels an "existential" threat and there is no European pushback.

Analysis

Ten years on from Tahrir: EU's massive missed opportunity

Investing in the Arab world, in a smart way, is also investing in the European Union's future itself. Let's hope that the disasters of the last decade help to shape the neighbourhood policy of the next 10 years.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. EU aims at 'zero pollution' in air, water and soil by 2050
  2. French police arrest Luxembourg former top spy
  3. Vaccine drives spur better-than-expected EU economic recovery
  4. Slovenia causing headaches for new EU anti-graft office
  5. 'No place to hide' in Gaza, as fighting escalates
  6. EU chases 90m AstraZeneca vaccines in fresh legal battle
  7. Fidesz MEP oversees FOI appeals on disgraced Fidesz MEP
  8. Belgium outlines summer Covid relaxation plans

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us