Obama signs stiffer Iran sanctions

President Obama signed broad new sanctions against Iran into law on Friday, but not before lawmakers of both parties expressed frustration that the bill had been sitting on his desk for a week.

The top Democrat and Republican on the House Foreign Affairs panel have been urging Obama to sign into law a broad range of sanctions against Iran that Congress passed almost unanimously before breaking for summer recess last week.

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The bipartisan sanctions aim to pressure Iran into abandoning its alleged nuclear weapons program by significantly tightening sanctions against the country's energy, shipping and insurance sectors.

The administration worked with lawmakers on the bill despite its reservations about Congress hamstringing its ability to conduct diplomacy.

“Time is of the essence,” the bill's sponsor, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), said in a statement prior to Obama signing the bill.

“The longer that we wait, the more room South Korea, China and other Iranian crude oil importers will have to either continue enabling the Iranian regime or to backslide on previous commitments to substantially decrease crude oil imports, and even repatriate hard currency to Tehran.

“We need to stop making exceptions and impose the strongest pressure against Iran that we can,” she said.

Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the committee, agreed.

“With each passing day, the Iranian government continues to spin its centrifuges,” Berman told The Hill in a statement. “The sooner the sanctions are signed into law, the sooner we can plug loopholes in the current sanctions regime and the sooner the Iranian regime will feel increased pressure.”

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), a senior member of the Foreign Affairs panel, pressed the administration to enact a slew of other measures.

“What has concerned me over the years is that it has taken us so long to get where we are on Iran sanctions — delays of months and years, not days,” Sherman said. “Several provisions, including the refined petroleum sanctions proposed by [Sen.] Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) took too long to enact. Several other provisions that have been proposed, including Sen. Kirk’s package of amendments, Congressman Ted Deutch’s (D-Fla.) Iranian Energy Sector and Proliferation Sanctions Act, and many provisions from my Stop Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program Act and the Iran Financial Sanctions Improvement Act still need to be enacted.”

The administration on Friday also announced new sanctions against the Syrian state-run oil company Sytrol after it allegedly sold $36 million worth of oil to Iran in April.

A senior administration official said in a conference call with reporters,  “Today’s actions against Sytrol send a stark message: The United States stands resolutely against sales of refined petroleum product to Iran, and more broadly that we, the United States, take any business that continues to support Iran’s energy sector and continues to support the Assad regime, or that helps facilitate either nation’s efforts to evade U.S. and international sanctions, is going to face very serious consequences.”