WASHINGTON — Lawmakers in the US House and Senate have reached a compromise agreement on a new round of Iran sanctions in an effort to thwart the Islamic Republic’s suspected nuclear weapons program.

The bill aims to punish Tehran by closing the US market to any business working with Iran’s energy, financial, and transportation sectors.

AIPAC called it ‘the strongest set of sanctions to isolate any country in the world during peacetime’

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) called the final bill “the strongest set of sanctions to isolate any country in the world during peacetime.”

Mark Dubowitz, an expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a pro-Israel think tank, said the measure was “a strong bill that fills numerous loopholes and tightens the sanctions requirements.” But, he says, “It could be tougher.”

The final bill, called The Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012, would impose penalties on companies shipping proliferation-related materials to Iran and punish anyone who provides shipping insurance to Tehran. It is also designed to prevent Iran from repatriating money back to the country from foreign oil sales which, according to AIPAC, would “rob Iran of 80 percent of its hard currency earnings and 50 percent of the funding for its national budget.”

Iranian nuclear facility. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad remains determined to continue his country's nuclear program despite increasing sanctions from the West. (photo credit: CC-BY nanking2010/Wikipedia)

Iranian nuclear facility. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad remains determined to continue his country’s nuclear program despite increasing sanctions from the West. (photo credit: CC-BY nanking2010/Wikipedia)

The measure also goes after Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps by requiring companies that trade on the US Stock Exchange to disclose any business conducted with Iran to the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC).

And it threatens to freeze the assets of, and deny visas to, individuals and companies who supply Iran with weapons that can be used against its citizens like tear gas and rubber bullets. That provision also applies to Syria.

Senator Tim Johnson (D-S.Dak.), Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee and one of the bill’s original sponsors, vowed to help the legislation pass as early as Wednesday, before Congress takes its customary month-long August recess. One of the bill’s chief architects on the House side, US Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), who chairs the chamber’s Foreign Affairs Committee, said the bill is a warning to Tehran that the US is serious about stopping its nuclear program.

The bill sends a clear message to the Iranian regime that the U.S. is committed, through the use of sanctions, to preventing Iran from crossing the nuclear threshold

“The bill sends a clear message to the Iranian regime that the U.S. is committed, through the use of sanctions, to preventing Iran from crossing the nuclear threshold,” she said.

But several lawmakers expressed disappointment that the compromise bill doesn’t go far enough. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Reps Ted Deutsch (D-Fla.), Robert Dold (R-Ill.), and Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) wanted the US to declare Iran’s energy sector a “zone of proliferation concern,” which would essentially ban all Iranian energy industry business. Instead, the final version of the bill includes a non-binding “sense of Congress” that Iran is a “zone of proliferation concern.”

Also, proponents of stiffer sanctions say the bill does not call for penalties on the board of directors of SWIFT, an international financial transaction clearinghouse, if it were to be discovered that any of its directors had helped other countries circumvent international sanctions on Iran.

Iranian physics is beating Western economic pressure

“Iranian physics is beating Western economic pressure,” Dubowitz told Foreign Policy’s The Cable, referring to the pace at which Iran’s program is moving forward while the US and its allies wait for sanctions to bite hard enough to fatally disrupt the program.

“We need to skip intermediate steps and go to comprehensive economic warfare. Everything must be prohibited unless permitted, and the only transactions that should be permitted are small purchases of Iranian oil and the sale of humanitarian goods. Destroying the regime’s energy wealth is the best way to avoid a military confrontation,” he said.