Congressman: 'Sanctions by July 4'

Vote on bill this week; Iran tops Barak-Clinton agenda.

barak hilary 311 (photo credit: AP)
barak hilary 311
(photo credit: AP)
WASHINGTON – US House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Howard Berman expressed optimism Wednesday that “the most comprehensive sanctions related to Iran” would be approved before the July 4 recess.
After weeks of wrangling between House and Senate members, the final draft of the bill was due to be filed later Wednesday, with votes likely this week, Berman said.
RELATED:"Sanctions are not a panacea""All options remain on the table"
He added that the White House, which has expressed reservations about the bill, was heavily consulted, and that he expected the president would sign the legislation when it reached his desk.
“I would argue we’ve been like two people who want to achieve the same goal,” Berman said. “We had some differences. We spent a lot of time working through those differences and that we on this.”
While agreeing on a shared goal, the White House has long indicated that it has concerns with the bills. Just Tuesday, US Under-Secretary of State William Burns told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the administration would still like further discussions on the matter.
“It is no secret that our international partners contain their enthusiasm for extra-territorial applications of US legislation, and that’s why we continue to work closely with you and your colleagues to try to ensure that the measures are going to be targeted in a way that maximizes the goal here,” he told the panel.
One of the most contentious issues has been whether the bill would grant an exemption to “cooperating countries” – those nations the administration believes to be helping in the effort to sanction Teheran – to avoid alienating international partners.
While countries are not exempted outright, the compromise version allows the administration to waive sanctions on a case-by-case basis, although Berman stressed that the decision would need to be made publicly on behalf of the named companies and countries.
On most counts, however, it is tougher than the original, adding sanctions connected to Iranian human rights violations, financial transactions to Iranian banks involved with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, and targeting sectors including insurance and shipping, thus going far beyond the original bill’s focus on barring refined petroleum imports.
“It is by far, by far, the most comprehensive sanctions related to Iran that we have ever entertained and – I think we can say – have passed,” Berman told reporters on a conference call.
He acknowledged the poor track record of enforcement of previous sanctions – those Congress passed in the mid- 1990s triggered just one investigation, which then was waived – but maintained that this measure was more stringent.
He said that now, investigations of companies would be automatic, with the administration having the authority