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POLITICS: PennAve

Congressmen hail tighter sanctions as warning to new Iranian president

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The House is preparing to take up legislation that would tighten economic sanctions on Iran, and its backers say it will serve as a warning to Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani.

“The new president is going to be sworn in on Aug. 4. … What better message for us to send than to pass this tough round of sanctions?” said Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., at an event held Tuesday by a pro-Israel group, The Israel Project.

The “Nuclear Iran Prevention Act” would compel foreign countries to reduce their purchases of Iranian crude oil; make it harder for Iran to conduct transactions in Euros; penalize those who engage in commercial trade with Iran; and expand the number of blacklisted Iranian economic sectors to include automotives and mining.

The House is expected to consider the bill Wednesday. With more than 350 sponsors, there are no serious impediments to passage. Once passed, the bill would head to the Senate, where its fate after the August congressional recess is uncertain.

“The House passing a bill will put the focus and pressure on the Senate to act. Unless something changes in the geopolitical dynamic over the August recess, that pressure will have only increased by the time Congress comes back in September,” one Senate source argued.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., and the panel's top Democrat, Eliot Engel, of New York, said Tuesday that Rouhani was less moderate than he appeared, and that swift action  in particular the passage of their bill  was required to halt Iranian nuclear development.

“I don’t think he’s any less radical, I think he’s just more duplicitous,” Royce said, asserting that Rouhani was merely the most moderate of those approved by Iran’s Guardian Council to run for the presidency.

Engel went even further, hailing new sanctions as necessary for peace  and waving off the consequences that tightened sanctions might have on the Iranian people.

“If you want to see peace, passing this legislation is almost a prerequisite. … For the last 10 years the only way to advance” has been through sanctions, Engel argued. “The [Iranian] people are prepared to withstand some of this if it really meant a change of regime or democracy returning to Iran.”

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