The Senate will soon take up a new package of Iran sanctions, which if approved, could force the administration once more to implement new punitive measures on Iran.
On Thursday afternoon, Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act currently on the Senate floor, obtained by The Cable, that would blacklist Iran's energy, port, shipping, and shipbuilding sectors, while also placing new restrictions on Iran's ability to get insurance for all these industries. The legislation would also vastly expand U.S. support for human rights inside Iran and impose new sanctions on Iranians who divert humanitarian assistance from its intended purpose.
"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," Kirk said in a statement to The Cable. "This bipartisan amendment will greatly increase the economic pressure on the Iranian regime and send a clear message of support to the Iranian people."
Supporters of the new sanctions language, called The Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act, argue that it would bring the U.S. in line with the European Union's recent moves prohibiting the sale or delivery of various metals, coal, and software to Iran while increasing sanctions on blacklisted Iranian government entities as well as satellite providers supporting Iranian state broadcasting and jamming activities. The amendment preserves existing exceptions for the legal import of oil and gives President Barack Obama the ability to waive sanctions in the interest of national security.
"According to the latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran continues to defy the U.N. Security Council by expanding its nuclear enrichment capacity," said Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and head of its Iran Energy Project. "While recent sanctions passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in the Senate have had a crippling impact on Iran's economy, we must find new ways to increase the pressure and stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability."
Menendez and Kirk have a long history of successfully pushing Iran sanctions through the Senate above the administration's objections. The existing sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran, which the administration has worked hard to implement this year, were originally proposed by Menendez and Kirk despite strong administration opposition.
Those sanctions passed the Senate by a vote of 100-0.
John Hudson reports on national security and foreign policy from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom, the White House to Embassy Row, for The Cable.