Congress passes Iran sanctions

Congress on Thursday overwhelmingly passed the conference report on the Iran sanctions bill.

The House passed the bill on a vote of 408-8 Thursday evening. The Senate, with a vote of 99-0 earlier Thursday, also cleared the legislation. Now President Barack Obama just has to sign the bill for it to become law.

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“The world has watched as Iran has oppressed its own people, violated United Nations resolutions, challenged America and threatened Israel,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in remarks from the Senate floor. “The Senate is taking an important step forward today as we pass a conference report that will impose tough new sanctions on Iran. We are passing these sanctions because we believe we must stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon — a weapon that would surely threaten the national security of the United States and of Israel.”

The votes in the House and Senate follow Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) and Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), co-chairmen of the bill’s conference committee, announcing an agreement earlier this week on how to merge the House and Senate bills together.

The bill takes aim at Iran’s refined petroleum sector. Businesses that help supply Iran with refined petroleum or help develop the country’s own refining capacity would be penalized by the legislation.

In addition, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps comes under more scrutiny. Any financial institutions found to be doing business with the Guard or with blacklisted Iranian banks could be denied access to the U.S. financial system under the bill.

Passage of the conference report on the Hill comes after the White House was able to win the support of China and Russia for a new round of United Nations-endorsed sanctions against Iran. The Obama administration wanted Congress to wait on their own sanctions bill while the president negotiated with international allies to come down harder on Iran.

Pro-Israel lobbying groups have been pushing hard for a new round of sanctions against Iran and will see victory in the congressional votes Thursday. The sanctions bill also comes about a year after Iran’s last presidential election, which was alleged to be fraudulent and greeted by street protests in Tehran and elsewhere.