Update 6/25/10: The House vote took place later in the day on Thursday. The bill was approved 408-8 and now moves to the President for signing.
The Senate has unanimously passed H.R. 2194, the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010, by a vote of 99-0. The House is expected to follow later today.
The final bill expands existing U.S. sanctions to include entities that trade with Iran’s energy sector, since U.S. sanctions passed in 1996 targeted investment only. It also imposes sanctions on financial institutions doing business with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) or with certain Iranian banks blacklisted by the Department of the Treasury.
While the bill does allow the president to waive penalties on countries cooperating with UN sanctions, it denies the exemptions the administration had requested and places extensive restrictions on the president’s waiver authority. This exemption has been the most serious disagreement in a process that has had bipartisan support from both the House and Senate since its inception.
Under this bill the president may waive sanctions on companies for 12 months on a case-by-case basis as long as he certifies to Congress that the country where the company is based is cooperating with U.S.-led multilateral efforts to isolate Iran.
Getting down to a few of the specifics, the legislation will:
• Expand the scope of sanctions authorized under ISA by imposing sanctions on foreign companies — including insurance, financing and shipping companies — that sell Iran goods, services, or know-how that assist it in developing its energy sector;
• Ban U.S. banks from engaging in financial transactions with foreign banks doing business with the IRGC or facilitating Iran’s illicit nuclear program or its support for terrorism
• Impose significant financial penalties and travel restrictions on Iran’s human rights abusers.
• Establish three new sanctions, in addition to the menu of six sanctions that already exists under ISA, including: (1) a prohibition on access to foreign exchange in the U.S.; (2) a prohibition on access to the U.S. banking system; and (3) a prohibition on property transactions in the U.S. The Act would require the President to impose at least three of the possible now-nine sanctions on an entity in violation of ISA.
• Ban U.S. government procurement contracts for any foreign company that exports to Iran technology used to restrict the free flow of information or to disrupt, monitor, or otherwise restrict freedom of speech.
• Require a certification from a company bidding on a U.S. government procurement contract that it is not engaged in sanctionable conduct.
• Provide a legal framework by which U.S. states, local governments, and certain other investors can divest their portfolios of foreign companies involved in Iran’s energy sector. Strengthen efforts to stop black-market diversion of sensitive technologies to Iran.
• Strengthen the U.S. trade embargo against Iran by codifying longstanding executive orders and limiting the goods exempted from the embargo.
• Increase substantially the criminal penalties for sanctions violations by U.S. entities.
The problems with this bill have been well aired here on NoH, but a few welcome changes did appear during conference, including:
• Non-binding language supporting the work of US NGOs engaged in humanitarian and people-to-people programs in Iran.
• A binding provision explicitly permitting the export to Iran of a wide range of goods, including those goods related to humanitarian needs, internet and online communications, safe operation of commercial aircraft, and other goods whose export is in the national interest of the United States.
• A provision imposing sanctions on human rights violators.
• A provision imposing sanctions on people who help Iran censor communications and the internet.