Washington, Aug 2 – The United State Congress has approved new sanctions on Iran’s energy, shipping and financial industries, in hopes that increasing the economic pressure will persuade the Islamic Republic to halt its nuclear weapons program.
The House of Representatives voted 421-6 in favor of the Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Human Rights Act of 2012, a set of measures aimed at depriving Iran of income from its energy production and shipping trade, the country’s largest export sectors. The Senate later approved the bill on a voice vote and President Barak Obama is expected to sign it shortly.
But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Iran’s leaders remained unimpressed both by sanctions and threats of other actions.
“America and Israel have also made clear that all options are on the table. But these declarations have also not yet convinced the Iranians to stop their program,” Netanyahu said on Wednesday.
“However forceful our statements, they have not convinced Iran that we are serious about stopping them. Right now the Iranian regime believes that the international community does not have the will to stop its nuclear program. This must change and it must change quickly, because time to resolve this issue peacefully is running out,” the prime minster said.
The latest U.S. legislation would punish financial institutions, insurance companies and shippers that help Tehran sell its oil, closing loopholes that have allowed Iran to circumvent existing sanctions.
“Ultimately, we will all be judged by a simple question: Did we stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapons capability?” said Florida Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, during the House debate. “If the answer is no — if we fail — then nothing else matters. If we fail, it would be of no comfort to the American people, whose security and future would be put in danger. If we fail, it would be of no comfort to our ally Israel, whose very existence would be put in danger.”
The bill would penalize anyone who works in Iran’s petroleum, petrochemical or natural gas sector, or helps Tehran’s oil and gas industry by providing goods, services, technology or infrastructure.
“We are taking another significant step to block the remaining avenues for the Iranians to fund their illicit behavior and evade sanctions,” said Democratic Senator Tim Johnson, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.