The Conference Report on the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010, released yesterday, gives the president sweeping new authority to sanction energy companies and financial institutions that do business with Iran, as well as Iranians involved in human rights abuses.
This new bipartisan legislation builds upon the 1996 Iran Sanctions Act. It has even more bite than the versions passed by the House (December 2009) and Senate (January 2010). Indeed, the president is empowered to impose sanctions on businesses that either supply Iran with refined petroleum or help the Islamic Republic produce it. The sanctions also include companies that supply Iran with technology, goods, services and information to its energy sector. The impact of this could be enormous. Iran currently imports as much as 30 percent of its gasoline, despite its massive oil wealth, simply because the regime lacks the technology to refine its own gasoline.
The new bill explicitly forbids the federal government from granting contracts to companies that export sensitive technology to Iran. It also targets foreign financial institutions that do business with key Iranian banks, as well as the notorious Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a designated terrorist group. Specifically, the legislation gives the Secretary of the Treasury the power to severely restrict these institutions from accessing the American financial market. These institutions will not have to make a choice. They can either keep working with Iran, or work with America. They can’t have it both ways.
Responding to the Iranian regime’s gross human rights abuses in the aftermath of the rigged June 12, 2009 elections, the legislation empowers the president to impose sanctions against the individuals responsible for those atrocities.
The timing of conference committee release was critical. It comes on the heels of similar actions by the U.N. Security Council, and the E.U., as well as the Treasury Department. All three increased designations of Iranian government and IRGC entities in the span of two weeks. Congress is now taking the lead by providing the international community with additional targets and strategies to aid the effort to halt the Iranian drive to attain a nuclear weapon.
Unfortunately, the new sanctions will likely not thwart the Mullahs. Still, they can expose Iran’s nuclear partners, hinder the Iranian energy supply chain, increase financial pressure, and generate much needed additional support from an international community that is only now finding the courage to challenge the regime.