House Overwhelmingly Approves Iran Refined Petroleum Act of 2009
December 15, 2009, Washington, D.C. – Today the House of Representatives passed the Iran Refined Petroleum Act of 2009 (H.R. 2194) by a vote of 412 yeas to 12 nays. Introduced in April of this year by Congressman Howard Berman (D-CA/28th), the Act allows U.S. sanctions against foreign companies that provide Iran with refined petroleum, among other things. The bill garnered immense bipartisan support and at the time of its passing included 343 cosponsors.
The Iran Refined Petroleum Act (IRPSA) has been the spearhead of a number of proposed bills voicing the U.S. Congress’ displeasure with Tehran’s continued nuclear program as well as the violent crackdown on peaceful demonstrators following the disputed June 12th presidential election in Iran. Other proposed bills have taken aim at allowing state and local governments to divest from companies that invest in Iran’s energy sector (the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act), and sanctioning companies that provide sensitive technology to the government of Iran that could be used to spy on its people (Reduce Iranian Cyber-Suppression Act).
In the Senate, unilateral U.S. sanctions are also on track but on a slower pace. On October 29, 2009, the Senate Banking Committee unanimously approved the “Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act of 2009 (S.2799),” which incorporates IRPSA as well as portions of the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act and the Reduce Iranian-Cyber Suppression Act. While the measure has been placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders, media reports have indicated that the Obama Administration wants to slow down the legislative process while it attempts to gain international support for multilateral measures aimed at resolving the nuclear standoff with Iran.
In the meantime, Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN/5th) has introduced the Stand With the Iranian People Act (SWIPA), which enhances United States sanctions against Iran by targeting Iranian governmental officials and prohibiting Federal procurement contracts with persons that provide censorship or surveillance technology to the Government of Iran, while also encouraging humanitarian and people-to-people assistance to the Iranian people. While the legislation is intended to fashion an alternative structure for U.S. policy towards Iran, it does little to lift current licensing requirements from the Office of Foreign Assets Control for exporting humanitarian assistance to Iran. In unison with Congressman Ellison, Congressman Jim Moran introduced the Iranian Digital Empowerment Act (H.R.4301)(IDEA), which would authorize provisions of certain software and services be provided to the Iranian people to help circumnavigate censorship restrictions put in place by the Iranian government.
While PAAIA is focused on domestic U.S. 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, we recognize the importance of Iranian Americans being informed about legislative initiatives and positions of their members of Congress concerning this topic. Accordingly, the purpose of this report is to outline the background and significance of some of the sanctions legislation under consideration in the 111th Congress.