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The Senate tonight sent President Barack Obama legislation imposing economic sanctions on Iran and strengthening existing restrictions, part of an ongoing effort to pressure the Islamic republic to refrain from building a nuclear weapon.
“At a time when Iran continues to defy the international community with its nuclear weapons program, it is critical we continue to tighten our sanctions regime,” Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said in a release after the Senate passed the bill by unanimous consent.
“This legislation expands our existing sanctions on Iran’s energy sector, and imposes new sanctions targeting shipping and insurance,” Reid continued. “Iran continues to try to evade existing sanctions. But this legislation, in combination with newly announced measures by the Obama administration, closes loopholes and stops the use of front companies, or financial institutions to get around international sanctions.”
Senate action comes shortly after the House cleared the bill. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) also praised the bill.
“This important legislation significantly expands the president’s authorities to apply additional and even tougher sanctions targeting the financial and energy institutions that support Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, its nuclear program and its support for terrorism,” Cantor said. “By closing loopholes in the existing sanctions regime, this measure will tighten the economic noose and authorize dramatic new sanctions on Iran's energy sector.”
The bill represents a compromise reached between House and Senate negotiators after both chambers passed their own different versions. The House passed its version in December by a vote of 410-11, while the Senate gave voice-vote approval to an amended version of the House bill in May.
The bill includes a raft of activities that are forbidden under penalty of sanctions. Under the bill, sanctions can be imposed on anyone who works in Iran's petroleum, petrochemical or natural gas sectors; provides goods, services, infrastructure or technology to Iran's oil and natural gas sectors, including financial services, consulting and maintenance and repair; conducts oil-for-gold or other swap transactions with Iran; or insures or reinsures investments in Iran's oil sector.
The bill is designed to prevent Iran from repatriating revenue it receives from the sale of its crude oil, depriving Iran of hard currency earnings and funds to run its state budget.
It also prevents the purchasing of Iranian sovereign debt after the date of enactment, thereby further limiting the regime’s ability to finance its illicit activities.
The bill further expands sanctions against Iranian and Syrian officials for human rights abuses facilitated by computer and network disruption, monitoring, and tracking by those governments.