House votes to extend Iran sanctions

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The House approved legislation on Tuesday to renew sanctions against Iran for another decade.

Lawmakers overwhelmingly backed a bill to extend the banking, defense and energy sanctions by a vote of 419-1. Current sanctions are set to expire at the end of this year.

Libertarian Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) was the only member to vote against the measure.

{mosads}The international accord reached by the U.S., Iran and other countries last year agrees to lift certain sanctions in exchange for limits on the country’s nuclear program. 

Lawmakers said extending the sanctions that have been in place for the last 10 years would ensure the U.S. has a backup plan to hold Iran accountable if it violates the nuclear deal.

“If we let the clock run out on the Iran Sanctions Act, Congress will take away an important tool to keep Tehran in check. And that, in turn, will only further jeopardize America’s national security,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said. 

Senate Republicans have indicated they want to attach new sanctions onto an extension of the existing ones, unlike the “clean” bill the House approved on Tuesday. 

A measure backed by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) attaches new sanctions onto a 10-year extension of the current sanctions and limits the president’s ability to issue national security waivers. 

But most Democrats are unlikely to sign onto anything other than a bill renewing the existing sanctions.

President-elect Donald Trump campaigned on a pledge to tear up the nuclear deal with Iran. But in a press conference at the White House on Monday, President Obama expressed doubt Trump would follow through on that rhetoric.

“My suspicion is, is that when the President-elect comes in, and he’s consulting with his Republican colleagues on the Hill, that they will look at the facts,” Obama said. “Because to unravel a deal that’s working and preventing Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon would be hard to explain — particularly if the alternative were to have them freed from any obligations and go ahead and pursue a weapon.”

A group of 76 national security experts also urged Trump to keep the nuclear deal this week.

Also Tuesday, the House passed a bill by voice vote to sanction people responsible for the humanitarian crisis in Syria through 2021. Sanctions could be suspended if areas besieged by the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime have access to aid and the Syrian government is releasing political prisoners. 

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