The Senate yesterday passed a bill that would impose new sanctions on Iran and on companies that assist Iran’s oil industry. The legislation, S.2799, targets companies that supply Iran with gasoline and other refined products or help it to expand its refinery capacity. Although Iran possesses the world’s third largest oil reserves, it must import approximately 40 percent of its gasoline supplies because of a lack of refinery capacity. The House voted to pass similar legislation last month by a vote of 412-12.

The Senate vote came the day after nine senators wrote a letter urging President Obama to take stronger action to escalate pressure on Iran over its suspect nuclear efforts. The letter, which urged the administration “to do everything that is necessary to stop Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapons capability in the critical months ahead,” was signed by Republican Senators Jon Kyl, John McCain, Johnny Isakson, and David Vitter, independent Joe Lieberman, and Democratic Senators Evan Bayh, Robert Casey, Charles Schumer, and Benjamin Cardin.

Meanwhile, the Obama Administration’s efforts to ratchet up pressure on Iran in the United Nations Security Council faces resistance from the usual suspects: China and Russia. The Wall Street Journal reported that the administration will push for enhanced financial sanctions on Iran and measures aimed specifically at Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its huge constellation of enterprises and front companies.

China, which has a growing trade relationship with Iran, has been dragging its feet on another round of sanctions. It forced a cancellation of a meeting of the five permanent members of the Security Council on Iran in December and only sent a low-level delegation to a meeting on that issue two weeks ago. Russia also has sought to dilute and delay any sanctions at the Security Council. Yesterday Moscow signaled that this resistance is likely to continue: a top arms trade official issued a statement that reassured Iran that it is a valued market for Russian arms exports and noted that no international agreements bar Russia from selling weapons to Tehran.

This is one more sign that if and when the United Nations Security Council takes action, it is likely to be a day late and a dollar short.

For more on Iran, see: Iran Briefing Room