The Senate voted overwhelmingly Thursday to pass sanctions against the regimes in Iran and Russia, targeting the former for its ballistic missile program and the latter for its aggressive cyber war against the United States.
Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., joined Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., as the only two legislators voting against the new bill.
“The bill includes new sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile programme and other activities not related to the international nuclear agreement reached with the United States and other world powers.”
Additionally, the legislation imposes terrorism-related sanctions on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, an arm of the regime tasked with exporting its terrorist ideology. The bill also mandates sanctions for individuals involved with Iran’s ballistic missile endeavors.
Under President Obama, top White House officials warned that sanctions would be dangerous to the legitimacy of the nuclear deal signed with Iran. The bipartisan effort showcases that the Obama legacy on relations with Iran, and specifically the Iran deal (which is not rescinded in the Senate bill), have become deeply unpopular.
Iran, which the United States considers the world’s foremost state sponsor of terror, continues to aid and arm jihadist entities worldwide. The regime in Tehran directly supports the Syrian Assad regime through Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, its proxy in Lebanese Hezbollah, and various Shiite militias. Iran is also involved in efforts to finance and arm groups waging civil wars and sectarian conflicts throughout the rest of the Middle East.
— Tim Scott (@SenatorTimScott) June 15, 2017
— Senate Republicans (@SenateGOP) June 15, 2017
— Mike Enzi (@SenatorEnzi) June 15, 2017
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) June 15, 2017
The Russia sanctions were added as an amendment to the Iran bill on Wednesday and passed 97-2. They were intended to punish Russia for its aggressive hacking campaigns against America and Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region. Additionally, the sanctions include a provision that prevents President Trump from lifting sanctions against Russia without the consent of Congress. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, voted against the Russia amendment, claiming it was “not effective at addressing problems in the U.S.-Russia relationship.” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, the second member who voted against the sanctions amendment, said that sanctions against Iran or Russia are like “tweaking their nose” and not effective. Lee ultimately voted for the final bill.
In November, Iranian dictator Ali Khamenei threatened U.S. leaders that his country would react if sanctions were passed against his terrorist regime. In a televised addressed, he said that sanctions would violate the Iran deal signed by President Obama.
House leadership has not yet decided when or if it will take up the bill. However, the bill would be widely expected to pass with a veto-proof majority. The White House has not yet released a statement on the president’s reaction to the sanctions bill. However, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson seemed to push back at the legislation Wednesday at a House hearing.
"I would urge Congress to ensure any legislation allows the president to have the flexibility to adjust sanctions to meet the needs of what is always an evolving diplomatic situation," Tillerson said Wednesday during the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.