US Congress passes 'strongest' Iran sanctions yet

Rep. Ros-Lehtinen says measure targeting oil sales "blacklists virtually all Iran's energy, financial, transportation sectors"; legislation still needs Obama signature.

August 2, 2012 03:50
2 minute read.
US Capitol building in Washington D.C.

US Capitol building 311. (photo credit: REUTERS/Jim Bourg)

After debating the imposition of new penalties on Iran before the August congressional recess, the US Congress passed a new package of sanctions against Iran on Wednesday that aims to punish banks, insurance companies and shippers that help Tehran sell its oil.

The legislation, agreed to by senior lawmakers of both parties in Congress, builds on oil trade sanctions signed into law by US President Barack Obama in December that have prompted Japan, South Korea, India and others to slash their purchases of Iranian oil.

The Senate passed the sanctions bill unanimously and the House passed it on a vote of 421-6. Lawmakers from both parties said they are prepared to take additional steps.

Obama still needs to sign the bill in order for it to become law. White House officials said on Tuesday they were reviewing the bill.

The new bill imposes sanctions on anyone who invests in Iran’s petroleum or natural gas sector, who provides refined petroleum products to Iran, who joins in energy ventures with Iran or who transports Iranian crude oil, closing several existing loopholes.

The sanctions followed

The White House on Tuesday slapped additional penalties on foreign banks that facilitate the sale of Iranian oil, including the designation of a Chinese bank.

China's Foreign Ministry said the sanctions announced by Obama would hurt cooperation between China and the United States.

"The US has invoked domestic law to impose sanctions on a Chinese financial institution, and this is a serious violation of international rules that harms Chinese interests," ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a statement.

Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who sought the Republican presidential nomination earlier this year, criticized the legislation as echoing the mistaken decision to go to war with Iraq.

“We’re beating the war drums once again,” he said, referring to Iran as “a third-world country” whose military assets can’t threaten America.

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