US senators establish bipartisan bill to toughen sanctions on Iran

© Reuters. Senator Robert Menendez speaks during a Senate Foreign Relations hearing on the conflict in Syria on Capitol Hill.

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Iran will face tougher US sanctions for launching ballistic missiles and other non-nuclear activities under a bill announced Thursday by a bipartisan group of senators, echoing a tougher line on Tehran. adopted by Republican President Donald Trump.

The bill has seven Republican and seven Democratic backers, and its aides said it has a high chance of becoming law.

It would establish mandatory sanctions for anyone involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program. And it would apply sanctions to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), making into law sanctions imposed by executive order on individuals linked to what the bill’s sponsors describe as Iranian support for terrorism.

The IRGC, an elite military body, is powerful in Iranian politics and economy.

The legislation would also require the US president to block the property of any person or entity involved in specific activities that violate the UN arms embargo on Iran.

Iran has hinted at proposed sanctions bills in the past that would violate the international nuclear deal reached during the administration of former President Barack Obama.

Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, a co-author of the measure, told Reuters that the new bill was written so as not to interfere with that agreement.

“We are working assiduously to make sure that no provisions affect the deal as it stands,” he said in an interview.

Advisers said the bill is expected to pass the Senate because of the breadth of its support. Its main sponsors include Republican Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the foreign relations committee, and Ben Cardin, the highest-ranking Democrat on the panel.

TRUMP WANTS DIFFICULTY IN IRAN

While the legislation would be expected to have strong Republican support, it would also need the backing of Democrats to move through the Senate. To become law, the measure would also have to go through the House of Representatives and be signed by Trump.

Trump has made it clear that he wants to take a tough stance against Iran. A spokeswoman for Corker said she had been consulting with the Trump administration.

In February, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on 25 individuals and entities in Iran, which it said were only “initial steps” in its effort to counter what it considers provocations.

Tehran has enraged Washington by supporting Yemen’s Houthi rebel movement and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in their country’s six-year civil war. It has also conducted repeated tests of ballistic missile technology in violation of a UN resolution.

Menendez said the bill was intended to adopt a “regional” strategy due to the breadth of Iran’s activities.

“It requires a regional strategy because Iran is obviously involved in the region in various ways, be it in Yemen or Syria and beyond,” he told Reuters.

The bill was announced just before the start Sunday of the influential pro-Israel lobby AIPAC’s annual conference in Washington.

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