In an effort to stifle the country’s nuclear progress and push the issue forward (though which direction each member might hope to push could vary widely) the Senate today approved additional economic sanctions on Iran by a unanimous vote of 94-0.
The bill, an amendment to the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) co-sponsored by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill), primarily targets Iran’s energy and shipping sectors. It does not require foreign countries to significantly reduce all non-petroleum sales to Iran or freeze Iranian foreign currency reserves, provisions that were under consideration at the outset of the bill.
While the legislation does provide some level of flexibility to the executive branch, the administration voiced its concern in a memo from the National Security Council just hours before the vote, arguing that the new sanctions are “unnecessary, duplicative and ‘threaten to confuse and undermine’ provisions in current law.”
Speaking in favor of the sanctions, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) said lawmakers would try to address the administration’s concerns in conference.
While backers of the bill hope that additional sanctions might pressure Iranian leaders into action, critics argue that more effort should be put into a negotiated solution, and that the administration’s more targeted sanctions should be allowed to run their course (see Usha’s recent analysis here for a great rundown of the debate).
The NDAA awaits a vote on passage that could come as soon as Dec 3.