Congress put the finishing touches on a long-awaited Iran sanctions bill yesterday when House and Senate lawmakers agreed to a final version of the sanctions, which will penalize Iran for its nuclear proliferation, terrorism, and human rights abuses.  This latest round of sanctions would disrupt Iran’s energy and banking operations by cutting off access to the U.S. market for firms that supply Iran with refined petroleum products such as gasoline, ship Iran’s crude oil abroad or insure its oil shipments.  U.S. banks would be banned from conducting business with foreign banks that do business with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps or aid Iran’s illicit nuclear program.

Both the House and the Senate must now vote to approve the final wording of the bill.  The House passed its version of the bill last December and the Senate passed it version in January.  The Obama Administration has lobbied both houses of Congress to water down the sanctions bill by allowing the President to waive sanctions against companies from nations that cooperated in ratcheting up sanctions at the U.N. Security Council.  The compromise language allows the President to waive some sanctions but forces the executive branch to make a declaration that the firm was guilty of violating the law.

The new congressional sanctions, coming on top of the mild U.N. sanctions passed last month, will drive up the costs of Iran’s nuclear defiance but are not likely to dissuade Iran from continuing its efforts to attain nuclear weapons.  Yesterday Tehran underscored its determination to continue on its present path by barring two IAEA inspectors from conducting inspections of Iranian facilities.  Iran’s duplicitous regime, which repeatedly has been caught cheating on its nonproliferation obligations, claimed that the two filed a “false report” about Iran’s nuclear program in the past.

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