Senate panel OKs new sanctions on Iran; nuclear deal remains

Iran refutes US for urging policy shift

By an 18-3 vote, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee paved the way for full Senate consideration, despite objections from former Secretary of State John Kerry and others who served in Democratic President Barack Obama's administration that it might threaten the 2015 global nuclear deal with Iran.

The bill was introduced on Thursday, March 23, by 14 Democratic and Republican senators, including senior members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

If the panel eventually approves sanctions legislation, it would require passage in the full Senate and the House of Representatives before it could go to Trump to sign into law.

The resolution calls on Iran "not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles created to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology". The bill the committee passed on Thursday is co-sponsored by 48 of the 100 senators. "All of these are areas that are specifically called out in the JCPOA as areas where it is appropriate and possible for the United States, if necessary, to impose additional sanctions".

While still participating in the deal technically, Trump also imposed new, narrower penalties against Iranian and Chinese entities for Iran's ballistic missile program.

The measure would punish Iran's Revolutionary Guards and enforce an arms embargo.

But the foreign relations committee waited to take up the bill until after Iran's election on Friday, when President Hassan Rouhani was re-elected with 57 per cent of the vote.

Trump's administration, in a notification to the USA legislature last month, acknowledged that Tehran was complying with the nuclear agreement, but said it was launching an inter-agency review of whether the lifting of sanctions against Iran was in the United States' national security interests.

Eight of the committee's 10 Democrats backed the bill, including Chris Coons of DE, who, in 2015, supported the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran nuclear deal. "So the first move of our government with this legislation is going to be to threaten the [nuclear] agreement".

Instead, his administration has said it would police Iran's compliance with the bill and review it, with an eye towards possibly modifying it to make it stronger. Only last month the president certified to Congress that Iran is living up to the deal, but he also sent Secretary of State Tillerson to Tehran with sharp criticisms of its behavior and an assessment that it's unlikely the Obama deal will meet its goals.

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