US Senate Banking Committee backs Iran petroleum investment sanction
The Senate Banking Committee voted unanimously today to further restrict trade with Iran and impose sanctions on companies that help the country acquire refined petroleum products, Bloomberg reported.
The 23-0 vote follows yesterday's approval by the House Foreign Affairs Committee of a similar measure to sanction companies involved in supplying, shipping, financing and consulting for Iran's petroleum sector. Iran has limited refining capacity.
Efforts to tighten sanctions on Iran are gathering steam on Capitol Hill as the Obama administration uses diplomacy to try to limit Iran's ability to obtain nuclear weapons.
Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, said the measure would help confront a "very serious threat" to the security of the U.S. and its allies by pressuring Iran to "come clean" on the nature of its nuclear program and to freeze uranium enrichment.
Dodd urged the full Senate, which never considered an Iran sanctions bill passed out of the committee last year, to vote on this one.
The Senate plan wraps together a series of measures. It would ban imports from Iran, ending the limited trade permitted in 2000 when then-President Bill Clinton allowed imports of Iranian nuts, caviar and carpets.
The measure builds on the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996, which sought to penalize companies investing more than $20 million a year in Iran's energy sector. The government has never imposed sanctions under the law, frustrating many members of Congress.
The Senate plan would extend sanctions under the 1996 law to companies that build pipelines and provide tankers. It would require the president to report to Congress when investments in Iran's energy sector are eligible for sanctions. Currently, there is no reporting requirement.
The president could waive the sanctions if he determined such action was in the national interest.
The Senate bill also would strengthen controls to stop illegal exports of sensitive technology to Iran and require the president to freeze assets of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps. The Revolutionary Guard Corps is on the Treasury and State Department's terrorist list, making trade with members of the group illegal.
Potential Military Action
Senator Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, called the package of penalties "probably the only worthwhile sanctions that are left before we potentially take military action" against Iran.
Corker expressed concern that the unilateral sanctions would have "almost no effect in reality as it relates to refined petroleum" unless Russia and China "come along." Both countries, which trade with Iran, have resisted new sanctions.
The House bill passed in committee yesterday would require the administration to provide Congress with the names of Revolutionary Guard front companies and affiliates, and of people engaged in transactions with those entities.