Islamic Republic of Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad greeting African diplomats on May 26, 2012. Iran is seeking to strengthen ties with the continent., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
July 31, 2012
Deal Struck to Tighten Sanctions Against Iran
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON (AP) — House and Senate negotiators reached an agreement Monday night on a new round of sanctions against Iran, cracking down on energy, shipping and insurance sectors with punitive measures intended to derail what the West suspects is Tehran’s push to be able to build nuclear weapons.Lawmakers filed a final bill late Monday, with a House vote expected as early as Wednesday in the last week of work for Congress before its August recess.
“The bill sends a clear message to the Iranian regime that the U.S. is committed, through the use of sanctions, to preventing Iran from crossing the nuclear threshold,” said Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Florida Republican who is chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Senator Tim Johnson, the South Dakota Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, said the bill reconciled the House and Senate bills and incorporated new provisions from lawmakers. He vowed to help pass it in the Senate before Congress adjourned.
Unless Iranians “come clean on their nuclear program, end the suppression of their people and stop supporting terrorist activities, they will face deepening international isolation and even greater economic and diplomatic pressure,” Mr. Johnson said.
The two lawmakers and their staff members worked for weeks to come up with a bill. Sanctions have broad bipartisan support in Congress, and officials at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, said they supported the legislation.
Any company shipping proliferation-sensitive goods to Iran would be subject to penalties under the bill, a provision pushed by Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey. The bill would target the National Iranian Tanker Company, the state-run company and shipping line, as the measure tries to undermine the ways Iran ships oil.
The bill would also deny visas to and freeze assets of individuals and companies that supply Iran with technology that could be used against its citizens, like tear gas, rubber bullets and surveillance equipment, and it would extend sanctions on human rights violators to Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad’s government is accused of a bloody crackdown against protesters.
The bill targets Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps and requires companies that trade on the United States stock exchange to disclose any Iran-related business to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The United States and Europe contend that depriving Iran of its oil income would thwart what they suspect is its drive for nuclear weapons. Iran had exported 2.5 million barrels of oil per day to Europe, China, India, Japan and South Korea. American officials say the penalties have reduced those exports to less than 1.8 million barrels per day.
Several proponents of tough sanctions wanted Iran’s energy sector blacklisted and labeled a “zone of proliferation concern,” which would effectively ban all business. But the draft bill says the president should impose sanctions, and the provision is nonbinding.
Lawmakers also pushed for sanctions on the directors and shareholders of organizations like Swift, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, unless they stop providing services to the Central Bank of Iran. The draft bill does not target the directors.
Mark Dubowitz, a sanctions expert and executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, called the legislation a “strong bill that fills numerous loopholes and tightens the sanctions requirements.” He said “it could be a lot tougher” if Congress understood as much about the psychology of sanctions as the legality.
The new legislation builds on penalties that took effect this year. They focus on foreign financial institutions that do business with Iran’s central bank by prohibiting them from opening or maintaining correspondent operations in the United States. It applies only to foreign central bank transactions that involve the sale or purchase of petroleum or petroleum products.