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White House Angling for Clean ISA Renewal

White House Angling for Clean ISA Renewal White House Angling for Clean ISA Renewal

The US House of Representatives plans to vote to renew expiring sanctions on Iran without adding provisions the White House would likely find objectionable, and sources say President Barack Obama is likely to let such a "clean" bill become law.

At issue is the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996, which targets the nation's energy sector and is due to expire on Dec. 31. The White House says the president and Treasury Department already possess the sanctions-issuing authorities that the law grants. But Obama likely would not veto a "clean" renewal because administration officials have concluded it would not violate the terms of the nuclear deal the US and other world powers brokered with Tehran last year, according to a source with knowledge of the White House's deliberations.

One senior House GOP aide told the Washington-based newspaper Roll Call, "My understanding is that the bill being discussed is a clean renewal."

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters on Tuesday that he had no "veto threat to issue at this point".

"I won't prejudge at this point about whether or not the president would sign that bill," he added.

Sources familiar with the administration's thinking say the White House's play appears aimed at keeping new restrictions or penalties on Tehran —or new requirements of the executive branch—out of whatever might reach Obama's desk.

"There's strong bipartisan support in Congress for the ISA reauthorization," said Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

"The White House opposition is genuine—they really don't want this—but their public posture is designed to ensure that, if it does happen, it will be a clean renewal without any of the other additional sanctions that Republicans and some Democrats would like to see."

  Poison Pills

Another source involved in the debate echoed that sentiment.

"My read is that the administration would accept a clean renewal," said Ryan Costello, a policy fellow at the National Iranian American Council. "But they are skeptical Congress can resist adding poison pills that undermine the nuclear deal so [they are] reluctant to open any door to that possibility by signaling support for an extension."

The 1996 law targets investments in Iran's energy sector and was meant to deter Tehran's alleged pursuit of a nuclear arsenal. Republican and Democratic lawmakers in both chambers want to keep it on the books. Iran says its nuclear program has always been meant for peaceful applications and has had no military dimensions.

Roll Call first reported the administration's opposition to renewing the sanctions on Oct. 11, with one White House official saying, "The expiration of the Iran Sanctions Act … will not affect our ability to continue to issue sanctions designations when warranted."

The law has been a "pivotal component of US sanctions against Iran's energy sector … since enactment in 1996," the Congressional Research Service has noted, adding that its reach has "been expanded to other Iranian industries."

But when the Obama administration and other global powers negotiated the deal with Tehran last year, the White House agreed to waive all energy-sector sanctions, pending Tehran's adherence to the pact.

The White House's opposition to a renewal pits it against many Democrats. In the Senate, a handful of Democrats are urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to schedule votes on reauthorizing the law during the lame-duck session.

The Democratic senators, in a letter sent earlier this month to the Kentucky Republican, said that renewing the law is "crucial" because "it remains a critical tool to deter and impede individuals and entities supporting Iran's development of conventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction."

Leader of Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has issued a decree to ban the production, stockpiling and use of WMDs.

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