State Lawmakers Ramp Up Anti-Iran Push

Analysts Say Only Strong White House Action Really Matters

Nuclear Option: Iranians pray in support of their country’s nuclear program. State lawmakers are pushing for sanctions against the Islamic republic, but experts discount their impact.
getty images
Nuclear Option: Iranians pray in support of their country’s nuclear program. State lawmakers are pushing for sanctions against the Islamic republic, but experts discount their impact.

By Nathan Guttman

Published November 24, 2011, issue of December 02, 2011.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

As the Obama administration imposes new economic sanctions against Iran in an effort to get it to abandon its nuclear program, some state legislatures are ramping up sanctions of their own.

Following the lead of California and Florida, New York state is now considering a ban on contracts with all companies doing business with Iran. The new legislation enjoys bipartisan support and is expected to pass. But so far, only these three states have responded to the call issued by some advocacy groups for states to contribute to the escalating American sanctions regime.

“It has a very marginal effect,” said Kenneth Katzman, a specialist in Middle East Affairs with the Congressional Research Service, referring to state sanctions. Katzman, who has done extensive work on the impact of sanctions against Iran, believes that to make a dent in Iran’s nuclear program, the United States would have to get Russia and China to stop working with Iran’s oil industry. That is a goal currently beyond the reach of American diplomacy.

Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundations for Defense of Democracies, acknowledged that all sanction measures taken together “will not amount to a silver bullet.” But they might, he said, be “silver shrapnel that will injure the Iranian regime.” Dubowitz stressed that no measure, big or small, should be discounted in the push to stop Iran. “State sanctions and divestments are important elements that mutually reinforce federal sanctions,” said Dubowitz, who recently testified on Iran sanctions at a hearing held by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

On November 21, the administration announced a new round of sanctions against Iran that included tightening measures against its oil and petrochemical industries, and applying more scrutiny to financial institutions dealing with Iran to prevent money laundering. These measures were viewed as closing loopholes in existing sanctions rather than as a new phase in the sanctions regime.

Experts point to two measures that could deal a definitive blow to Iran’s economy: blocking international use of Iran’s refined oil, or targeting the nation’s central bank, a move that has already gained support in Congress. But either move would inflict pain on the United States and the global economy, as both could lead to a spike in oil prices worldwide.

State-level boycotts offer local lawmakers a way to join the global effort against Iran’s alleged attempt to develop nuclear weapons and to amplify a message to the business community about the price companies working or investing in Iran will pay.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.