The U.S. Senate on Friday voted 94-0 to impose new sanctions on Iran aimed at the maritime sector, building on restrictions targeting the country's oil and financial industries, in an effort to get the Persian Gulf nation to drop attempts to develop a nuclear weapons capability.
The legislation would designate Iran's energy, port, shipping and ship-building sectors as facilitating nuclear proliferation. Businesses that engage in transactions with these sectors would be penalized and have their assets in the United States frozen. Also, individuals selling or supplying commodities that can aid Iran's shipbuilding and nuclear sectors, such as graphite, aluminum, steel, metallurgical-coal and software for integrating industrial processes, would face sanctions.
Another provision also requires the executive branch to report use of Iranian seaports by foreign vessels and use of foreign airports by Iranian airlines, which would violate existing sanctions. The amendment would continue to allow nations to buy Iranian crude oil as long as they can show that purchases have been decreasing over time.
The amendment is attached to the Senate's defense authorization bill, which is expected to head for a vote this week.
The White House does not support the Iran sanctions bill
because of concerns it counteracts existing sanctions, and officials are asking Senate Democratic leaders to wait until next year to draft a bill that is consistent with existing sanctions law, according to Bloomberg News
. Officials said the new provisions were confusing and inconsistent in applying sanctions, according to an e-mail Bloomberg
obtained and a subsequent statement it received from the National Security Council.
The White House e-mail also said that reporting requirements about vessels calling at Iranian ports and landings of Iranian planes would "impose serious time burdens" on the U.S. intelligence community and sanctions officers, Bloomberg reported
Bloomberg noted that President Obama may veto the defense bill for reasons unrelated to the Iran sanctions.
USA*Engage, a coalition of manufacturing and other business interests that favors multilateral diplomacy over unilateral sanctions, expressed its disappointment at passage of the Iran sanctions bill.
"The Senate's vote today to approve additional unilateral sanctions is at odds with the U.S. government's official position of pursuing a dual track of multilateral sanctions and diplomatic engagement... At a time when thoughtful diplomacy and working in concert with U.S. allies is critical, the Senate's action today flies in the face of pursuing common purpose," the statement said.
The group said it supported the provision that protects trade in humanitarian goods, such as agricultural products, food, medicine and medical devices.
USA*Engage's main premise is that sanctions amount to unfunded mandates whose costs are borne by individual companies and communities, and that the stated goals of unilateral sanctions fail to materialize. - Eric Kulisch