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U.S. Congress Passes New Iran Sanctions

Congress overwhelmingly passed expansive new Iran sanctions.

The sanctions passed Thursday in both houses: 99-0 in the Senate and 408-8 in the U.S. House of Representatives, and now go to President Obama for signing.

The sanctions expand existing sanctions targeting investment in Iran’s energy sector to encompass trade with the energy escort and business with the banking sector.

“This legislation tells Iran and its trading partners that the United States means business about stopping Iran’s illicit nuclear activities,” U.S. Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said in a statement. “It greatly strengthens our nation’s overall sanctions regime regarding Iran, increasing the prospects that Iran will finally bear serious costs for its blatant defiance of the international community.”

By adding tough new reporting requirements, the enhanced sanctions also considerably restrict the president’s ability to ignore the sanctions; Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama each bypassed the earlier sanctions passage passed in 1996.

President Obama had sought an blanket exemption in the new sanctions bill for countries that have joined the United States in multilateral sanctions through the U.N. Security Council; Congress resisted, granting him a 12-month waiver, with the stipulation that he explain to Congress the reasons for waiving the sanctions and peridoically report whether the sanctions-busters are falling into line.

The new sanctions also incorporate language introduced by Reps. Ron Klein (D-Fla.), Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), Steve Rothman (D-N.J.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) targeting businesses that contract to the U.S. government. Such businesses must now certify that they do not do business with Iran. The language drew support after revelations that the U.S. government had done at least $107 billion in recent years with contractors that do business with Iran.

The enhanced sanctions also target human rights abusers in Iran.

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