WASHINGTON – The House has voted to slap new, punishing sanctions on Iran. The vote was carried 421-6 Wednesday night. The Senate backed the decision.
The bill expands the financial penalties imposed on Tehran, while adding new sanctions on the energy and shipping sectors. Lawmakers said that denying oil income to Tehran will force it to abandon its suspected nuclear weapons program.
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In a rare show of bipartisanship, House and Senate negotiators compromised on the measure that would impose sanctions on anyone who mines uranium with Iran or provides insurance to the National Iranian Tanker Co., the state-run shipping line. The bill also seeks to undermine Iran's ability to repatriate revenue from the sale of crude oil.
The vote was held against the backdrop of US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's visit to Israel.
The new sanctions, which targets Iran's oil and petrochemical sectors as well as its shipping trade, expands existing sanctions intended to choke off the revenue that Iran reaps from its two largest export industries.
The new series of measures will impose sanctions on any country which mines uranium with Iran; sells, leases or provides oil tankers to Tehran; or provides insurance to the National Iranian Tanker Co., the state-run shipping line.
The bill's initiators hope to put it up for a House and Senate vote before the end of the week. President Barack Obama, who just ordered a fresh set of sanctions on banks in China and Iraq that the have helped Iran evade international sanctions, will then have to approve the new penalties.
Panetta with Netanyahu (Photo: EPA)
The new measures also have one major backer – the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group – American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
The package is mainly the work of Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Rep. Howard Berman, who have both been racing to approve the legislation before Congress heads into summer recess.
"This legislation and today's executive action are important steps in the right direction, but not the final word on Iran sanctions," said Berman. "Unless Iran agrees to end its weapons program, we must continue to pursue even tougher measures that would result in crippling sanctions on the Iranian regime,"
The already existing sanctions have taken their toll on the Islamic Republic's economy. The International Energy Association has said that exports of Iranian oil have dropped from a rate of 2.5 million barrels a day in 2011 to below 1.5 million barrels a day in June, costing Tehran about $63 million daily.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week that world leaders must do everything in their power to prevent Iran from possessing nuclear capability. "We have to be honest and say that all the diplomacy and sanctions ... so far have not set back the Iranian program by one iota," he said.
AP contributed to this report
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