US Senate Panel Advances Iran Sanctions Bill

US Senate Panel Advances Iran Sanctions Bill
US Senate Panel Advances Iran Sanctions Bill

A bill that would levy more sanctions on Iran if it fails to sign an agreement with the major powers on its nuclear program cleared a US Senate committee on Thursday. But US lawmakers are holding off on a full Senate vote to see whether diplomatic negotiations yield a deal.  

Republican and Democratic members of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee voted 18-4 to pass the bill aimed at ramping up pressure on Iran starting in July if it does not sign an international deal to resolve the long-running dispute over its nuclear program, the Associated Press reported.

Republicans still can move ahead, but that is unlikely without Democratic support. They would not have enough votes to override President Barack Obama, who says he will veto the legislation because it would derail the diplomatic effort to reach a deal.

The US and its allies have claimed that Iran’s nuclear program may be aimed at developing the capability to build nuclear weapons. Tehran denies the allegation and says the program is entirely devoted to civilian purposes, such as electricity generation.

The nuclear talks have been extended until July, with the goal of reaching a framework for a deal by the end of March. IRNA reported on Wednesday that Iranian lawmakers have proposed a bill that would end the international diplomacy if the US imposed new sanctions.

A movement to levy more sanctions had been moving fast in the US Congress. But on Tuesday, Senator Bob Menendez, a Democrat who co-authored the measure with Senator Mark Kirk, a Republican, and nine other Democrats told Obama in a letter that they would not push the bill at least until the end of March.

The bill would not impose any new sanctions during the remaining timeline for negotiations. It says that if there is no deal by July 6, the sanctions that were eased during negotiations would be reinstated. After that, sanctions would be stepped up every month. Amendments to the bill that passed allow Congress to vote on any deal approved with Iran, beef up reporting requirements for verifying that Iran is complying with any agreement reached and task the US Treasury Department to report on the economic impact of sanctions relief on Iran.

Meanwhile, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Thursday that Obama will veto another bill crafted by US Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and Bob Corker that would require the administration to receive congressional approval for any nuclear deal it strikes with Iran.

The bill would set a “harmful precedent” that would “negatively impact” negotiations with Iran, Reuters quoted Earnest as saying at a news briefing.