U.S. Congress approves new laws against Iran

Jul 17
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Asharq AL-awsat
Saturday, 16 July 2016

Congress marked the one year anniversary of the nuclear deal with Iran with continued attacks against the agreement, including House passage of three bills that would undermine or invalidate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The White House warned that it would veto the measures if necessary, saying that they would “undermine the ability of the United States to meet our JCPOA commitments by re-imposing certain secondary economic and financial sanctions lifted” under the JCPOA.

The bills adopted on Wednesday would undermine or outright violate the agreement in a number of ways.

The first one would block future purchases of heavy water from Iran, a byproduct that can be used for nuclear production; the second would block Iran’s access to the dollar outside of the U.S. financial system – while Iran is still barred from the U.S. financial system, it’s access to dollars held by banks outside of the U.S. is not restricted, which this bill would reverse; and the third bill would sanction any sector of Iran’s economy that directly or indirectly has applications for Iran’s ballistic missile program – which would likely even result in sanctions on Iran’s academic sector.

Notably, the votes may be warning shots aimed at giving pause to any companies or banks that may be considering entering Iran.

Last week, the House added amendments to a spending bill that would bar the Boeing sale.

The House passed all of the bills on largely party-line votes of around 246-180 — not a strong enough margin of approval to overcome a veto, which requires a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress.

Iran, for the most part, has complied with the agreement to crimp its ability to build nuclear weapons, allowing the Obama administration to take credit for averting a Middle Eastern arms race and making, as Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday, “a safer world.”

However, conservatives who opposed the agreement can assert that nothing has held Iran back from other illicit activities, such as the financing of terrorism, curtailing of human rights and jailing of dual-national opponents. The deal’s terms focused only on curtailing Iran’s nuclear program.

For his part, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif did not respond directly to the House vote, but he called the nuclear deal a “triumph of diplomacy over coercion” on Twitter, and said some U.S. politicians keep using the same “tired slogans” and “old methods that produce the same old failures.”

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