Obama welcomes Iran sanctions

Clinton pledges complete implementation of tough new US sanctions.

White House 311 (photo credit: courtesy)
White House 311
(photo credit: courtesy)
WASHINGTON – The Obama administration welcomed Congressional approval of sweeping Iran sanctions Friday, after months of reservations and negotiations over the legislation.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged complete implementation of the measure, which was passed overwhelming by both chambers Thursday and now awaits only the president’s signature to become law.
“We are committed to fully implementing this legislation in a manner that advances our multilateral dual-track strategy of engagement and pressure,” she said in a statement the day after the vote.
Previous sanctions passed in the 1990s were virtually never acted on by former presidents Bill Clinton or George W. Bush, and though the current bill reduces loopholes, its enforcement will still largely be dependent on executive will.
The White House did not receive the wide exemptions it sought for “cooperating countries,” but did get waiver authority it could apply to specific companies from cooperating countries once they have been named and investigated.
As American enterprises are already forbidden from doing business with Iran, the bill sanctions those foreign companies that sell Iran gasoline or help develop its energy sector, and forces financial institutions to chose between using American banks or ones connected to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps.
Despite the waivers, the legislation still “by far the most comprehensive sanctions related to Iran” imposed by the Congress, according to co-author Howard Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
The Congress has for years made attempts to pass further sanctions against Iran without success. Even this legislation took over a year from being filed to pass, with the delay at least due in part to members giving the White House time to test engagement with Tehran and, in recent weeks, for the UN Security Council to first pass its own more limited sanctions.
Clinton said the legislation, along with steps taken by the European Union and Australia on the heals of the Security Council resolution “underscore the resolve of the international community to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and to hold it accountable for its international obligations.”
She added, “The United States will work with our partners to maximize the impact of these efforts and to continue pursuing a diplomatic resolution to the international community’s concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear program.”
The bill also sanctions individuals involved in Iranian human rights abuses, require companies to certify they’re not engaging in sanctionable activity to get US contracts and make it easier for states and municipalities to divest from Iran, among other provisions.
The sanctions were approved by a 99-0 Senate vote and 408-8 tally in the House of Representatives.
It came the same day as the House passed a resolution calling for the immediate release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, on the four-year anniversary of his abduction.
“We continue to offer our support to the family of Gilad Shalit and to the people of Israel,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement issued after the resolution was approved. “Congress stands united behind a future of peace and security for the Jewish state.”‪