Congress Clears New Sanctions on Doing Business With Iran

The U.S. Congress voted to impose new sanctions on companies and individuals that do business with Iran’s oil and natural gas industries.

Those who provide commercial goods, technology or financial services would face punishment under the measure passed 421-6 by the House and cleared by the Senate without a recorded vote. The bill goes to President Barack Obama.

The measure, H.R. 1905, is intended to fill gaps in existing economic sanctions on Iran’s economy to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.

“We declare that the Iranian energy sector is off limits,” Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican and chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said on the House floor. “Let’s stop Iran before it’s too late.”

The Obama administration on July 31 announced new sanctions on Iran’s energy and petrochemical sectors and on banks in China and Iraq that have conducted transactions on behalf of Iran.

U.S. sanctions are part of the international economic pressure on Iran to give up suspected efforts to develop nuclear weapons. Iran denies pursuing atomic weapons and says its nuclear program is for peaceful energy and medical purposes.

The legislation would impose sanctions on entities that help Iran mine uranium, sell or lease oil tankers to the country, or provide insurance for Iran’s oil sector.

Export Licenses

The sanctions could include the denial of export licenses, prohibitions on loans or credits from U.S. financial institutions and a ban on imports to this country.

The measure would let the president waive sanctions in certain circumstances.

U.S. companies would be required to disclose Iran-related activity to the Securities and Exchange Commission. U.S. visas could be denied to foreign officials or shareholders with a controlling interest in companies subject to sanctions.

Sanctions would be expanded for transporting crude oil from Iran to another country unless that country had a special exemption to import the oil. Also subject to penalties would be owners or operators of vessels that conceal the origin of Iranian oil or petroleum products, such as by disabling satellite-tracking devices or concealing flags.

Human-Rights Abuses

Sanctions could also be imposed for supplying products that could help Iran develop biological and chemical agents or missiles, and for supplying goods that could aid in committing human-rights abuses, such as guns, rubber bullets, chemical sprays, electroshock weapons, tear gas and surveillance technology.

The bill also would impose sanctions on people who provide such aid for human-rights abuses in Syria.

The Obama administration hasn’t announced a position on the bill. Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser, told reporters on July 31 that the administration was reviewing the measure and thinks “it can be an important tool in adding to the sanctions regime we have in place.”

Bob Einhorn, special adviser for nonproliferation and arms control at the State Department, told reporters during a July 31 conference call that sanctions are having an effect.

He said that according to the International Energy Agency, Iran’s crude oil exports have dropped from about 2.5 million barrels a day in 2011 to fewer than 1.5 million barrels a day last month. “That amounts to roughly $9 billion in lost revenues for Iran in every quarter,” Einhorn said.

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