Senate passes new sanctions on Iran, Russia

Katrina Soto
June 20, 2017

The larger bill is expected to pass the Senate by the end of the week, then be passed by the House and signed by Trump.

However, Sen. Robert Menendez was skeptical, telling Politico, "I just cannot fathom how House Republicans could ultimately, with everything that's going on with Russia's nefarious actions, try to either deep-six the bill or dramatically change it".

Senators said the tougher tack against Russian Federation would help force them to ease hostilities against Ukraine, permit a negotiated settlement in the Syrian civil war and dissuade them from attempting to hack USA institutions and political groups in the future, as it's widely believed they did during the campaign a year ago. "This bill demonstrates to the Iranian regime that they will not be tolerated".

Trump officials have been eager to crack down on Iran's non-nuclear illicit activities, and have squeezed the country with additional sanctions while they conduct a comprehensive Iran policy review.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a press conference during his annual call-in-show at press center in Gostiny dvor June 15, 2017 in Moscow, Russia.

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White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders echoed Tillerson's sentiment on Thursday, telling reporters that, "We believe the existing executive branch sanctions regime is the best tool for compelling Russian Federation to fulfill its commitments". It's not the first time Congress has sought such a requirement, however, as a similar mechanism was passed in 2015 regarding sanctions on Iran after President Obama pursued his landmark nuclear deal with the country. Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Rand Paul of Kentucky were the only votes against the bill. Thursday's legislation punishes Iran for its ballistic missile testing and human rights violations, and applies terrorism sanctions to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Testifying this week on Capitol Hill, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acknowledged the need to take action against Russian Federation but warned against measures that would cut off dialogue with Moscow.

Previously, US energy sanctions had only targeted Russia's future high-tech energy projects, such as drilling for oil in the Arctic, fracking and offshore drilling. "I would be very, very surprised if the president vetoes this bill". The new sanctions are meant to punish Russian Federation for its role in the fighting in Syria and for interfering in the 2016 election.

The passage of the legislation comes as congressional committees and a special counsel are investigating the nature of any potential links and contacts between Trump associates and the Kremlin.

"The bill includes new sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile programme and other activities not related to the worldwide nuclear agreement reached with the United States and other world powers". Broad new sanctions would be imposed on Russia's mining, metals, shipping and railways sectors.

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