House, Senate agree on enhanced Iran sanctions

JTA REPORT

WASHINGTON — Congressional negotiators have settled on a bill enhancing Iran sanctions.

“This bipartisan, bicameral Iran sanctions legislation strengthens current U.S. law by leaps and bounds,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the chairwoman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs committee and a chief sponsor of the bill, said in a statement released Monday after House and Senate negotiators finalized the legislation.

“It updates and expands U.S. sanctions, and counters Iran’s efforts to evade them,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “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.”

Obama administration officials likely will cite the enhanced sanctions bill, due to pass both houses in its final version before week’s end, in their efforts to persuade Israel not to take military action against Iran in the coming months.

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Among other things, the bill expands sanctions on insurers dealing with Iran’s energy sector; sanctions anyone affiliated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps; expands sanctions on energy and uranium mining activities in Tehran; and freezes the assets of individuals and companies that enable Iran with technology to repress its citizens. 

It also reduces the threshold for incurring sanctions from $20 million in annual dealings with Iran’s energy sector to $5 million.

It also for the first time in actionable legislation defines the capability of building a nuclear weapon as posing a threat to the United States.

“Capability” is Israel’s red line, while for years the U.S. red line has been “acquisition.” The “capability” red line has appeared in recent months in non-binding legislation.

The Obama administration, with backing from Senate Democrats, managed to roll back some provisions backed by the House and Senate Republicans.

Under the final version, for instance, the president has considerable leeway to postpone sanctions on insurers in order to give them time to comply.

Also omitted from the final version are sanctions that congressional hard-liners had sought on individuals associated with SWIFT, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, as long as the body continues to deal with Iran’s central bank.