In a surprise move, the 27 member European Union voted to impose tough sanction on Iran aimed at its energy, shipping, insurance and financial sectors.
Ace Germany-based journalist Benjamin Weinthal has the full story in the Weekly Standard...here's a snippet:
This move comes on the heels of the U.S. Congress’s recently passed hard-hitting sanctions, aiming at Iran’s vulnerable energy sector and its IRGC. The IRGC are the hard-line Ahmadinejad loyalists who crushed the country’s pro-democracy movement a year ago.
Given the massive EU-Iranian trade relationship, the EU is uniquely positioned to leverage its economic muscles over Iran's rulers and bring the regime's financial interests to a grinding halt. EU exports to Iran totaled 14.1 billion euros in 2008, and import trade amounted to 11.3 billion euros, 90 percent of which was energy. If the EU decides to pump resources into enforcing the sanctions, the efficacy of ratcheting up the pressure might cause further labor unrest and deep social discontent. In the first half of July, probably as a result of the sanctions already imposed, powerful merchants in the Tehran bazaar went on strike. The last time roving bazaar strikes hit Iran was 1978, prompting the collapse of the Shah in 1979.
Coupled with U.S. sanctions that also target Iran’s energy and financial businesses, the EU sanctions might well be the last, best chance to stop Iran’s illegal nuclear program without the use of military force.
A lot of how effective this ends up being depends, of course, on how much the US and EU adhere to the sanctions and how much they extend them to other nations and companies in say, Russia and China that continue to supply the mullahs with the tools of the trade.
It's interesting to note that Russia and Iran have had a bit of a falling out lately over Iran's President Ahmadinejad's harsh language directed towards Russian President Dmitri Medvedev.
That, and the fact that the Russians have still not delivered the S-300 anti-missiles systems to Iran. But if you remember, there's a good reason for the non-delivery that involves Israel..