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May 2, 2023 3:48 pm

US Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Make Iran Sanctions Permanent


avatar by Andrew Bernard

A gas flare on an oil production platform in the Soroush oilfields is seen alongside an Iranian flag in Iran, July 25, 2005. Photo: Reuters / Raheb Homavandi / File.

A bipartisan group of Congressional representatives led by Reps. Michelle Steel (R-CA), Michael McCaul (R-TX), and Susie Lee (D-NV) on Monday introduced a bill to make the provisions of the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 permanent.

That bill, which is set to expire in 2026, authorizes the President to sanction the Iranian energy sector in an effort to prevent the Islamic Republic from acquiring funds that could be used to support terrorism or a nuclear weapons program. Formally titled the Solidify Iran Sanctions Act, the new bill would strike the sunset provisions of the 1996 act.

“The Iran Sanctions Act is one of the most important tools in US law to compel Iran to abandon its dangerous and destabilizing behavior,” McCaul said in a statement. “This bill takes the long overdue step of striking the arbitrary sunset from the law, so that sanctions will only be lifted if Iran stops its threatening behavior. Iran can’t run out the clock on U.S. law.”

Despite sanctions on oil exports that were reintroduced when former-President Donald Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal, Iran’s oil ministry on Tuesday reported that Iranian oil production had risen to 3 million barrels per day.

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Iran has faced an economic crisis in recent months, and its statistical agency has for the past two months refused to publish inflation data that it has otherwise consistently published each month for decades. The most recent figure published in late February showed that inflation stood at more than 47% year-on-year. 

Rep. Steel, one of the co-sponsors of the bill, noted that Iran nonetheless continues its brutal crackdown on dissent.

“Iran has made clear it has no interest in participating in the international community or working towards peace. Iran brutalizes its own people, most recently conducting chemical attacks on thousands of schoolgirls,” said Steel. “The rogue state continues to make threats against democracy and actively sponsors terrorism around the world. Through this bipartisan, bicameral legislation, we can prevent Iran from possessing nuclear weapons and further jeopardizing global peace.”

Iran’s economic crisis has coincided with months of unprecedented displays of public protest and outrage following the death of Mahsa Amini in regime custody, however those protests have quieted recently in the face of a bloody crackdown by Iranian regime forces that has left nearly 500 people dead and more than 100 facing execution.

The US has responded with 11 rounds of sanctions on Iranian officials, and has cited the protests and the Islamic Republic’s crackdown as one of the reasons why a return to the Iran nuclear deal is “not on the agenda.” 

In February, the IAEA detected 84% enriched uranium at Iran’s Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant – just shy of the 90% enrichment required for the weapons-grade uranium used in nuclear weapons.

Sarah Stern, President of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), on Tuesday highlighted the necessity of the bill in light of the upcoming sunset of certain provisions of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

“This bill comes at exactly the right time, and is particularly important now, as Iran is galloping towards nuclear breakout, as Iran has created a pincer grasp of terrorist proxies surrounding the state of Israel, and as some of the provisions of the JCPOA have already sunsetted, and as others are about to sunset,” she said. “This coming October 2023, an entire array of bans will be lifted, including, among other things, a ban on Iran’s research, development and production of Iranian ballistic missiles, a ban on the unfettered access of the IAEA into suspicious Iranian nuclear sites, and a ban on the import and export of drones and other missile technology.”

Simultaneously introduced in the Senate by Senators Tim Scott (R-SC), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Bill Hagerty (R- TN), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV), the bill needs to proceed to a vote in both chambers before it can be signed into law by President Biden.

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