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House overwhelmingly votes to add new Iran sanctions

JTA

August 1, 2013 | 9:02 am

U.S. Capital building

U.S. Capital building

The U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to add new sanctions on Tehran that would drastically reduce Iran’s trade.

The bill, which passed Wednesday evening by a vote of 400-20, would expand sanctions to shut down U.S. trade with any entity that trades substantively with Iran. Until now, such sanctions were imposed on entities that traded with Iran’s energy sector. The law maintains humanitarian exceptions for food and medicine.

The House bill on sanctions will not be taken up by the Senate until September, after the congressional recess. The bill, initiated by Reps. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the committee’s senior Democrat, comes days before Iran’s new president, Hassan Rohani, is inaugurated.

[Related: Rohani or no Rohani, we must increase the pressure on Iran]

Rohani has said he wants to talk with the United States about making Iran’s nuclear program more transparent. The Obama administration has indicated that it might consider an alleviation of some existing sanctions.

Some 131 House members last week wrote Obama urging him to take up Rohani’s offer, and most of them also voted for the new sanctions. However, 14 House members, all Democrats, urged the House leadership to delay the vote, saying it would embolden Iranian extremists who seek to marginalize Rohani.

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the House majority leader, said in his floor speech that conciliatory gestures should come after substantive moves by Iran, and not just as a result of statements.

“America’s policies must be based on facts and not some hope about a new government in Iran that will somehow change the nature of the clerical regime in Tehran,” Cantor said. “We must respond to Iran’s policies and behavior, not to its rhetoric.”

In a statement praising the House vote, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee urged the Senate to quickly take up the new sanctions.

“The window is rapidly closing to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability,” the AIPAC statement said.

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