The Senate approved new economic sanctions on Iran on Friday, overriding objections from the White House that the legislation could undercut existing efforts to rein in Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
The Senate voted 94-0 to impose additional U.S. financial penalties on foreign businesses and banks involved in Iran’s energy, ports, shipping and shipbuilding sectors, and impose sanctions on metals trade with Iran.
Sens. Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, and Mark Kirk, an Illinois Republican, the architects of a year-old law that has curtailed Iran’s oil exports and revenues, said the new measure would go further toward squeezing Iran’s economy and increase the pressure on the Islamic Republic to negotiate on its disputed nuclear program.
White House officials told Senate Democratic leaders in a late-night email on Nov. 29 that the administration didn’t think more sanctions are needed yet and asked them to hold off until next year. The new provisions were confusing and inconsistent in applying sanctions, according to the email, and the ambiguities “would hamper implementation” of sanctions.
“We believe additional authorities now threaten to undercut” existing sanctions, National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said yesterday in a statement. “We also have concerns with some of the formulations as currently drafted in the text and want to work through them with our congressional partners to make the law more effective and consistent with the current sanctions law to ensure we don’t undercut our success to date.”
The new package is an amendment to the annual defense authorization bill that awaits a vote that may come as soon as Dec 3. The measure would still have to be reconciled with a House of Representatives’ version, and already faces a potential veto by Obama over provisions unrelated to Iran sanctions.
While almost all trade with Iran by any U.S. business or individual has long been banned, the amendment approved yesterday would impose penalties on other nations’ trade with the nation, a step closer to a trade embargo on Iran.