On June 15, the Senate overwhelmingly adopted bipartisan legislation in a 98-2 vote that would impose sanctions targeting Iran’s ballistic missile program, its destabilizing actions in the Middle East, its human rights abuses, and its conventional weapons trade.
Authored by Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN), Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and SFRC Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-MD), The Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017 (S.722) is directed exclusively at Iran’s regional aggression, and in no violates the letter or spirit of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
The legislation “sends a clear signal to…Iran…that our country will stand firm in the face of destabilizing behavior and that Congress will play a leading role in protecting our national interests,” said Sen. Corker. “I hope the overwhelming support for this legislation can serve as an example for what can be accomplished when Republicans and Democrats work together and put the interests of the American people first.”
Sen. Menendez stated that “[t]his legislation reaffirms that the United States will not turn a blind eye to Iran’s nefarious destabilizing activities throughout the Middle East including its support for terrorism and continuing tests of ballistic missiles. With Iran’s influence growing ever more across the region— from its support of a Shia proxy network in Iraq, to its continued sponsorship of terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas, to its abhorrent alliance with Syria and Russia, this legislation ensures the United States has a strategy in place to secure American interests in the region.”
Sen. Cardin praised the legislation which also included sanctions targeting Russia. “Iran and Russia need to see more than rhetoric from the United States,” he said. “The action the Senate has taken today sends a clear message to Moscow and Tehran that there will be economic, diplomatic and material consequences for their aggression toward U.S. interests, values and allies.”
The bill specifically:
Mandates sanctions on persons that engage in any activity that materially contributes to Iran's ballistic missile activity, and includes persons engaged in any efforts to manufacture, acquire, possess, develop, transport, transfer or use ballistic missiles;
Imposes terrorism-related sanctions on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The U.S. government has already designated the IRGC’s Quds Force—the organization’s foreign activities branch—as a terrorist group and has sanctioned the IRGC for non-proliferation and human rights abuses;
Mandates sanctions on persons violating the arms embargo placed on Iran by United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231; and
Authorizes the president to impose sanctions on Iranians responsible for human rights violations against those who seek to promote human rights or expose illegal government activity.
“This legislation will enhance our ability to hold Iran accountable, which is of great importance given Iran’s continued testing of ballistic missiles, its harassment of U.S. vessels at sea, and its support of terrorism across the region,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). “At a time when we face many challenges—both at home and abroad—we must do everything we can to enable our country to counter threats where they exist and protect the American people.”
“As an original sponsor of this legislation,” said Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), “I believe it’s imperative that we hold the Iranian regime accountable for its destabilization of the region, its support for terrorist proxies like Hezbollah and Hamas, its development of ballistic missile technology in contravention of U.N. Security Council Resolutions, and its atrocious human rights record.”
“By imposing tough sanctions on Iran for its continued support for terrorism, prohibited arms transfers, and ballistic missile testing, this legislation sends a powerful signal that our nation stands firm against Iranian aggression,” said Sen. John Thune (R-SD). “Iran is destabilizing the Middle East and this needs to stop. We need to show Israel, our closest ally that we are serious about cracking down on Iran.”
“I am glad that Congress has overwhelmingly voted to impose new sanctions on Iran,” said Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI). “For too long, Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism and their repeated ballistic missile tests in defiance of a U.N. Security Council Resolution have destabilized the Middle East and threatened Israel, our strongest ally in the region.”
“These new sanctions will be a strong statement by the Congress and the Trump administration—that business as usual with Iran is over,” said Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), “I’m extremely pleased by the overwhelming bipartisan support to impose new sanctions on Iran for their destructive behavior throughout the Middle East.”
A similar piece of bipartisan legislation—The Iran Ballistic Missiles and International Sanctions Enforcement Act (H.R. 1698)—has also been introduced in the House of Representatives. Authored by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY), the bill would place new sanctions on Iran’s illicit ballistic missile program and arms transfers.
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