Congress passes bills imposing sanctions on Iran, Hezbollah


(JTA) — The United States House of Representatives, in a near-unanimous vote, approved legislation to impose new sanctions related to Iran’s ballistic-missile program.

The bipartisan measure, which passed Thursday by a 423-2 vote, requires the US administration sanction Iran for undertaking “any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic-missile technology,” the Associated Press reported.

It also calls on the US government to identify and impose sanctions on companies and individuals — both inside Iran and internationally — that aid or supply materials to the missile program.

The bill was sponsored by Republican Ed Royce and Democrat Eliot Engel. It must now pass the Republican-controlled Senate and go to President Donald Trump for his signature.


On Wednesday, the House passed two other Iran-related measures, including one placing new sanctions on the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia in Lebanon, which lawmakers have described as Tehran’s “terrorist proxy.”

One bill passed Wednesday by voice vote, H.R. 3329, would require the administration to impose penalties on entities, including financial institutions and foreign government agencies, that support Hezbollah which has received support from Iran.

Sanctions options include freezing U.S. assets, denying entry into the United States, barring imports and exports, restrictions from participating in federal contracts and imposing criminal or civil penalties.

Also passed by voice vote was H.R. 3342, which would direct the president to impose economic sanctions on members of Hezbollah who have used human shields and bar those individuals from entering the United States.

“Iran has no business developing or acquiring intercontinental ballistic missiles,” Royce said during the House debate about the bill passed Thursday.

“These sanctions will squeeze Iranian and foreign companies, banks, and individuals that support the Iranian regime’s illicit weapons programs. Iran must know that the United States will not tolerate its dangerous behavior,” he added after the vote.

Royce and Engel opposed the landmark nuclear agreement when it was signed in 2015, but both have said it is best to continue with the deal now that it is in place.

Under the terms of the accord, Iran agreed to curtail its nuclear activities in exchange for relief from international sanctions.

The vote in the House comes after Trump on October 13 refused to certify that Iran is complying with the deal, accusing Tehran of violating the “spirit” of the agreement. Trump announced then he would be advancing legislation imposing sanctions on Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah.

Trump did not immediately pull the United States out of the deal, instead pushing the matter to Congress and instructing lawmakers to strengthen a related US law to put additional pressure on Iran and asking international partners to modify the original agreement.

The president threatened he would pull out of the accord if significant changes were not made.

Israel under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vocally opposed the deal promoted by then president Barack Obama. Netanyahu said the deal, and especially the fact that its terms are limited to 10 years, “pave Iran’s path” to nuclear weapons. But Obama said the deal was the best means of blocking that path.

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