US Senators Intend to Extend Iran Sanctions

US Senators Intend to Extend Iran SanctionsUS Senators Intend to Extend Iran Sanctions

A pair of US Democratic senators is pushing to extend sanctions on Iran until President Barack Obama can guarantee its nuclear material is for peaceful purposes. Iran says its nuclear activities are totally meant for peaceful applications, rejecting western claims that the program may have had military aspects.

Democratic Senators Tim Kaine and Chris Murphy have introduced legislation that would extend the Iran Sanctions Act, currently set to expire at the end of the year, "in order to effectuate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [the official title the July 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers] in guaranteeing that all nuclear material in Iran remains in peaceful activities," the Hill reported on Tuesday.

Under their proposal, the sanctions would be lifted when the president is able to certify to Congress that the International Atomic Energy Agency's director general "has reached a broader conclusion ... that all nuclear material in Iran remains in peaceful activities."

The United States, Iran and five other countries implemented the deal earlier this year, with Iran agreeing to limits on its program in exchange for relief from financial sanctions. Both Kaine and Murphy support the Iran nuclear agreement.

  Transition Day

The Kaine-Murphy legislation does not specify when the president would be able to make that certification, but it could set up the sanctions law to be lifted on the deal's "transition day".

"Transition day" will occur eight years after the deal was adopted, or "upon a report from the director general of the IAEA ... stating that the IAEA has reached the broader conclusion that all nuclear materials in Iran remain in peaceful activities, whichever is earlier," according to the European Union's outline of the deal's implementation plan.

Amy Dudley, a spokeswoman for Kaine, said under the Kaine-Murphy legislation "[if] Iran breaks the terms of the deal and the president is unable to make this certification, ISA is extended in an open-ended manner. This is to prevent a non-compliant Iran having a sanctions expiration date in its sights."

The legislation comes as lawmakers have pledged to extend the sanctions law but failed to build momentum behind one proposal. Supporters of an extension argue it is needed so sanctions can be "snapped back" if Iran violates the deal. Senators Robert Menendez and Mark Kirk introduced legislation last year that would extend the sanctions law for 10 years.

Meanwhile, Senator Kelly Ayotte, backed by 18 other Republican senators, introduced a separate bill to extend the law through 2031 and require new sanctions tied to Iran's ballistic missile program. Senator Ben Cardin has suggested Democrats will back an extension of the sanctions law, but told reporters last month that he was skeptical of Ayotte's legislation.

"I reviewed it a while ago and felt it was not where we needed to be," he said. "[But] there is general consensus ... among the Democratic and Republican members of the House and Senate that the Iran Sanctions Act should be extended?."

Cardin and Senator Bob Corke have been working on Iran sanctions legislation for months, which is expected to include an extension of the Iran Sanctions Act.