Senate Approves Amendment Imposing New Iran Sanctions

December 7, 2012, Washington, D.C.- By an overwhelming margin (94-0), the U.S. Senate voted on November 30th for  new sanctions on Iran in hopes of curbing the nuclear ambitions of the Iranian government.

The new sanctions, cosponsored by Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), were introduced in response to concerns that Iran has not slowed its effort to develop its alleged nuclear weapons capacity in spite of the negative impact of existing sanctions on Iran’s economy and currency. The sanctions were introduced as an amendment to the annual National Defense Authorization Act.  

In explaining the rationale for the amendment, Senator Kirk stated: “According to the latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Iranian government continues to defy the international community by expanding its nuclear enrichment capability and abusing human rights.  We must prevent the Iranian regime from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability and make it U.S. policy to stand with the Iranian people in the face of oppression.”  The amendment has four main components.  The first designates Iran’s energy, shipping, port, and ship-building sectors as entities of concern.  Any business transaction with these sectors is forbidden, and the U.S. will sanction third parties that engages in them, or that provide insurance or reinsurance to any Iranian business in the sectors.  An exception is made for petroleum transactions on the part of countries which can show they have significantly reduced their oil purchases from Iran.

The second component imposes sanctions on people selling or supplying any item on a list of forbidden products to Iran.  The items include steel, aluminum, graphite, metallurgical coal, and software for integrating industrial processes.  All of the items on the list have been deemed relevant for Iran’s nuclear and ship-building sectors. 

The third component declares the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), as well as its president, as abusers of human rights for broadcasting show trials and forced confessions, and blocks their assets under section 105 of the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010.  In addition, other entities are forbidden to do business with IRIB. 

The fourth component of the amendment addresses humanitarian concerns regarding the sanctions.  Exceptions are provided for the sale of food, medicine, medical devices, humanitarian assistance, and agricultural commodities.  Additionally, sanctions are imposed on individuals inside Iran who are deemed to be engaging in corruption or diverting resources relating to the items exempted, and who are preventing them from reaching the Iranian people.  The amendment would allow the purchase of natural gas if the payments are made with local currency to an account that Iran could only use for approved trade.

Prior to the passage of the amendment, the Obama administration had indicated it did not believe further sanctions on Iran were necessary.  In an email sent on November 29th the administration asked Senate Democratic leaders to postpone any new sanctions until next year.  The email said that the new provisions were inconsistent and confusing in the application of sanctions, and that these problems would “hamper the implementation” of the sanctions.

PAAIA is focused on domestic affairs as they relate to the Iranian American community and has not been a platform for promoting U.S. foreign policy vis-à-vis Iran. However, we recognize the importance of Iranian Americans being informed about legislative initiatives and the positions of policy makers when it comes to U.S.-Iran relations.  Any involvement PAAIA may have with respect to the issue of U.S. – Iran sanctions is focused on possibly managing the impact sanctions regulations may have on the Iranian American community. As such, PAAIA has been in contact with the Obama administration and members of Congress urging them to adopt policies that would help facilitate legitimate humanitarian aid to Iran or identifying and seeking modifications on regulations that may unreasonably restrict legitimate personal remittance activities for Iranian Americans.

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