Senate Passes Iran Sanctions Bill, Despite Problems

By January 30, 2010General

The Senate on Thursday passed by S. 2799, Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act, on a voice vote. Passage came despite serious objections to the legislation’s overreach by many U.S. business groups, warning of unintended consequences. (See earlier post.)

Engage*America and the National Foreign Trade Council issued sharply worded statements criticizing Senate passage for running counter to the Administration’s multilateral approach, reinforcing anti-democratic forces in Iran, alienating allies and harming U.S. economic growth.

America’s trading partners are also concerned, as reported in this thorough piece at The Times of India, “US sanctions on Iran may hit Indian companies.”

In his floor statement, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) noted some of the objections:

We have worked closely with administration officials as we developed and refined this measure. They support much of what is in the bill. Even so, I recognize there are still some lingering concerns. Before we left for the holidays, the State Department sent a letter to Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Kerry, describing some of these concerns. They sought a general exemption from sanctions for companies from countries that are closely cooperating with the U.S. on multilateral efforts on Iran, a mechanism which could provide an additional incentive for certain countries to work with us on imposing tougher sanctions. I am open to discussing such an incentive mechanism as we move toward conference, as long as it would contain strict criteria for the President to make a determination about what, precisely, constitutes “close cooperation.” There have been a number of discussions in recent weeks on how to craft such an exception, and we have made some progress. There are diplomatic efforts underway, led by the U.S. and others, to achieve a united approach at the U.N. Security Council on sanctions. I believe we can come to some agreement with the other body, and with the administration, on the remaining issues on this bill. I know that the administration shares our belief that we must augment current economic sanctions, and will continue to work with us on an appropriate mix of pressure tools as this process moves forward and the final version of the bill is developed.

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