Key Senators Non-Committal About New Iran Sanctions Bill

WASHINGTON – Influential Senators on the Foreign Relations Committee declined to take a position on the bill introduced last week to boost sanctions against Iran for its ballistic missile program and support for terrorism. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), considered the most independent Republican on foreign policy told Jewish Insider,  “We haven’t come to a decision on that yet.”

Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) offered a similar non-committal response to the bill targeting Tehran. The former Vice Presidential candidate told Jewish Insider, “I’m taking a look at it. We were not involved in the drafting of it so I have had my time spend time on it, and I’m not ready to take a position yet.”

After introduced on March 23, the “Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017” was referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The bill would need majority support to reach the Senate floor. The bipartisan legislation was introduced by both Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) and Ranking Democratic Member Ben Cardin (D-MD).

AIPAC has instructed its members to enthusiastically lobby for the bill’s passage. J Street, on the other hand, has called upon Members of Congress to oppose the current legislation.  

“I haven’t made a decision on it,” explained Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT). “I supported the Iran nuclear agreement because it reserved our right to be able to impose new sanctions against Iran for its expansion of the ballistic missile program or continued violations of human rights or support for terrorism. I don’t have any problem with sanctions that are right sized against Iran’s non-nuclear activity. I just want to make sure that this legislation doesn’t have the unintended effects of unwinding the nuclear agreement and that the sanctions are right sized to the violations.”

An aide to Cardin told Al-Monitor last week that the Maryland Lawmaker successfully removed “several provisions seen as violating the letter or spirit of the nuclear deal, including limitations on offshore dollar clearing and U-turn transactions and reports on Iran’s use of commercial aircraft for terrorist activities and on the value and uses of sanctions relief granted under the nuclear deal.”

The legislation mandates that the President block the property of any individual or entity involved in selling illegal arms with Iran while also targeting those involved with the ballistic missile program.

The House is currently considering a similar version of the Iranian sanction legislation, which was introduced last week by Ed Royce (R-CA) and Eliot Engel (D-NY).

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