President Obama on Friday signed off on tough new sanctions aimed at hitting Iran’s oil exports, after determining there is enough crude supplies in the world market that taking the step won’t harm U.S. allies or drive gas prices even higher.

The president’s move gives him the ability to impose sanctions on foreign banks that continue to conduct business from Iran’s central bank, cutting them off from the financial systems of the U.S. and its allies. The U.S. and European Unionhave issued a string of sanctions against Iran to isolate it from the world economy and pressure Tehran to stop developing its disputed nuclear program.

Countries involved in purchasing oil from Iran can still prevent the sanctions if they significantly curtail their imports before the June 28 deadline.

Speculation about an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities has helped push up oil and gas prices, which have become one of the biggest political problems for Mr. Obama’s re-election.

In clearing the way for the congressionally mandated sanctions, Mr. Obama said he made his decision after “carefully considering” a Feb. 29Energy Information Agency report to Congress that analyzed the world’s oil supply and the impact the sanctions would have. The penalties are timed to take effect at the end of June, around the same time Europe’s embargo on Iranian oil also begins.

Continue reading →