GOP lawmakers may seek to renew Iran sanctions in November

House of Representatives expected to vote immediately after elections to extend restrictions by further 10 years

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Congressman Ed Royce (left) and Congrerssman Eliot Engel during the committee's hearing on Iran, September 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Congressman Ed Royce (left) and Congrerssman Eliot Engel during the committee's hearing on Iran, September 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

In what could be their first move after the November 8 elections, members of the US House of Representatives are reportedly expected to vote to extend the Iran Sanctions Act by a further 10 years.

Congressional aides told Reuters that the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s chairman, Congressman Ed Royce, will likely make the ISA, which expires on December 31, the first order of business when the House returns to Washington on November 14.

Despite the nuclear agreement, which gave sanctions relief to Iran in return for it curtailing its nuclear program, the US maintains sanctions on the Islamic Republic and certain Iranian companies and people. They are known as “specially designated nationals” or SDNs, for a variety of reasons, including Iran’s ballistic missile program, human rights record and support for groups the US deems to be terrorist organizations.

“The Iran Sanctions Act was enacted to curb Tehran’s support for terrorism and its very dangerous weapons proliferation. It should remain in place until the regime stops exporting terror and threatening us and our allies with deadly weapons,” Royce told Reuters. “That’s why I’ll be introducing a bipartisan, long-term extension of these important sanctions.”

It is likely that a renewal of the act will pass in the Republican-controlled House, where many lawmakers are pressing to strengthen the sanctions against Iran and to remove the president’s right to reject the legislation.

Still, there’s no certainty the act will pass in the Senate, where Republicans have 54 seats but require 60 votes to pass the legislation. It is also unclear whether US President Barack Obama would sign it into law. According to the report, the president would rather wait and only renew the sanctions if Iran violates the terms of the nuclear deal.

Earlier this month, the US Treasury Department issued new guidelines indicating foreign companies will not be sanctioned for doing business with Iranian entities. The updated guidelines allow for business dealings inside Iran so long as the US financial system and Americans are not involved.

They also specified that transactions are permitted with blacklisted individuals and companies, including terrorists with whom US citizens are prohibited from doing business, if that person or entity maintains only a minority interest in those ventures.

Republicans have long accused the Obama administration of making too many concessions to the Iranians in his supposed eagerness to reach a deal with them. In September the GOP-led House approved legislation prohibiting the US from making cash payments to Iran and require that Congress be notified before any future claims settlements with Tehran are conducted.

The Obama administration contends that integrating Iran into the international economy could help to empower President Hassan Rouhani and relatively moderate forces inside the country and strengthen the July 2015 nuclear accord, in which world powers reached an agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for lifting sanctions on the country.

Iran has complained that remaining sanctions related to its missile program and support for armed movements like Lebanon’s Hezbollah are locking it out of the international banking system and hampering its ability to make major purchases, such as aircraft.

The sanctions are also hindering foreign investment.

US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said in July that Washington was meeting its commitments under the deal.

But he stressed that the United States would continue to apply sanctions pressure on the country over its alleged support for terror activities and its ballistic missile program.

News agencies contributed to this report.

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