Senate introduces bill to expand Iran sanctions

Senate introduces bill to expand Iran sanctions

A group of a dozen US Senators introduced the “Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017” [text, PDF] Thursday to expand sanctions on Iran for ballistic missile development, support for terrorism, transfers of conventional weapons, and human rights violations. The bill was announced [JURIST report] last month and is being sponsored by seven Democrats and seven Republicans, including Bob Corker [official website], and former Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz [official websites]. The bill’s crucial provisions authorize the president to impose various sanctions on “any person” that is determined to have:

engaged in any activity that has materially contributed, or poses a risk of materially contributing, to the activities of the Government of Iran with respect to its ballistic missile program, or any other program in Iran for developing, deploying, or maintaining systems capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction, including any efforts to manufacture, acquire, possess, develop, transport, transfer, or use such capabilities …

The bill also authorizes sanctions on anyone who “has knowingly provided, or attempted to provide, financial, material, technological, or other support for, or goods or services in support of a person” referred to above. The sanctions include, among other things, blocking of the person’s property that comes within the possession of any person or institution on US soil, and exclusion from the US. Supporters hailed the bill [press release] as demonstrating “the strong bipartisan support in Congress for a comprehensive approach to holding Iran accountable by targeting all aspects of the regime’s destabilizing actions.” Senator Tom Cotton [official website] added: “The president has said he’s putting Iran on notice, and passing this bill would be an unmistakable sign of resolve,” said Cotton.” Senator Bob Menendez [official website], however, reaffirmed US commitment to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) [text, PDF] stating that this bill will not impede that commitment.

The situation surrounding Iran’s development and testing of nuclear technology has been a matter of national concern and has elicited multiple sanctions over the years. A bill renewing US sanctions against Iran for another 10 years became law [JURIST report] last December. In response to renewal of the Iran Sanctions Act, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has accused the US of breaching the nuclear agreement and has ordered the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation to plan the development of nuclear-powered ships. The US House had approved the extension of sanctions [JURIST report] last November. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) [official website] reported as recently as last September that Iran had successfully maintained a stockpile of “heavy water” below the threshold. In July 2015 the US entered into the JCPOA nuclear agreement with Iran where the county agreed not to create a nuclear bomb in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. The agreement was reached [JURIST report] after 20 months of negotiations. Iran has repeatedly claimed [JURIST report] that it has a right to nuclear technology and that its aims are peaceful.