American Lawmakers Drafting Anti-Iran Sanctions Package

American Lawmakers Drafting Anti-Iran Sanctions Package
American Lawmakers Drafting Anti-Iran Sanctions Package

US lawmakers are crafting behind the scenes the most comprehensive legislative package of sanctions against Iran.

Al-Monitor said in an article published on Wednesday that behind the scenes, lawmakers in both chambers and both parties have been working together on comprehensive legislation that will seek to target Iran for its alleged human rights abuses, ballistic missile tests and other activities.

That strategy could help explain why a bill to renew sanctions on Iran's energy sector that expires at the end of the year has been bottled up in the senate banking panel for the past 11 months despite bipartisan support for its passage.

"My sense on the Republican side is that the leadership is not going to accept a mere extension [of the Iran Sanctions Act] without additional sanctions," said Sen. Robert Menendez.

"Certainly I want to get it done, period. But if it helps drive a bigger package, that's a good thing."

Menendez, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who opposed the Iran deal, has been working for months with another pro-Israel lobbyist, panel chairman Bob Corker, on broader sanctions legislation.

"That effort is on the verge of succeeding," Corker said.

  Bipartisan Bill

"We have a bipartisan bill," Corker said, "and we're getting ready to roll it out real soon."

House members likewise have increasingly been signaling their intentions to go after Iran with everything they can muster.

"Before this president leaves office, we must do everything possible to prevent his administration from making further concessions to Iran," House Speaker Paul Ryan, wrote in a May 9 op-ed in the right-leaning online news site Independent Journal Review.

"This includes blocking any attempt to make it easier for … Tehran to conduct their trade in dollars. We are also committed to renewing the Iran Sanctions Act by the end of this year."

"In the coming weeks," Ryan promised, "House Republicans will present the country with an overarching vision for our national security."

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce and ranking member Eliot Engel have been working on such legislation for several months. The two leaders at one point hoped to have a bill ready in time for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's annual conference in late March, but Engel said the timing was not right.

Engel, however, said he could support a standalone renewal of the Iran Sanctions Act, which lawmakers view as a vital backstop in case Iran fails to fulfill its commitments under last July's nuclear accord.

US administration officials have urged Congress to hold off on the renewal for now, arguing that multilateral sanctions at the United Nations could be reinstated without the possibility of a veto if Iran is deemed to have gone back on the nuclear agreement. But it is not clear if the president would veto such a bill.

The negotiations have not prevented individual members from trying to rally support against Iran on their own, but those efforts have so far gone nowhere.