US Senate panel to vote on new Iran sanctions

Legislators say bill targeting Iran's oil tanker operator, IRGC affiliates has bipartisan support.

Workers move fuel rod in Isfahan R 311 (photo credit: REUTERS/ Caren Firouz)
Workers move fuel rod in Isfahan R 311
(photo credit: REUTERS/ Caren Firouz)
The US Senate Banking Committee expects to vote Thursday on legislation containing more economic sanctions on Iran, the panel's leaders announced on Friday.
Lawmakers want to increase pressure on Iran by further reducing its oil revenues, in hopes of discouraging Tehran from trying to build a nuclear bomb.
The announcement gave no details of the upcoming legislation, saying they would be released next week. The bill has bipartisan support, said the statement by the Senate panel's chairman, Democratic Senator Tim Johnson, and its ranking Republican, Richard Shelby.
Among the provisions that lawmakers' aides have said are under discussion in the Senate are some that could lead to US penalties against Iran's oil tanker operator, the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC), and the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC).
Others would sanction foreign entities that buy oil from affiliates of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps.
The proposed measures are being rushed forward even as President Barack Obama is struggling to implement the last round of sanctions on Iran approved by Congress late last year.
Sanctions on foreign banks handling transactions related to Iranian oil sales became US law on December 31, but have not gone into effect yet. The Obama administration is determining how aggressively it will implement them and could begin applying them in late June.
"On February 2, we intend to move forward with a markup," Johnson and Shelby said in their announcement, using legislative language that refers to a committee vote on a bill.
"We must continue to do all we can - diplomatically, politically and economically - to counter the growing threat from Iran's illicit nuclear program," they said.
"Our sanctions legislation will complement and reinforce ongoing international efforts led by the US and send another very clear signal to Iran's government of what's in store if they continue to defy the will of the international community," it said.
The US sanctions are among a number of western trade and banking embargoes aimed at pressuring Iran. Western powers suspect Iran is using a nuclear energy program to give itself the ability to build atomic bombs. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

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The US House of Representatives passed two bills on December 14 that would expand oil-related sanctions on Iran and close loopholes in the sanctions laws. Parts of these bills are among the measures being considered in the Senate.
But one provision approved by the House may not see action in the banking committee, because it does not fall under its jurisdiction. It would ban ships from US ports that have recently landed in Iran, North Korea, or Syria.