U.S. Senate Approves New Sanctions on Iran

U.S. Senate unanimously approves a package of new economic sanctions on Iran, days before nuclear talks in Baghdad.

Elad Benari,

Iranian nuclear facility
Iranian nuclear facility

The U.S. Senate unanimously approved on Monday a package of new economic sanctions on Iran.

The new package will extend the existing sanctions on trade with Iranian oil companies and will prevent any attempt by the Islamic Republic to sell its oil.

The sanctions build on penalties signed into law by President Barack Obama in December against foreign institutions trading with the Iranian central bank. They cover dealings with the National Iranian Oil Company and National Iranian Tanker Company and aim to close a potential loophole that could have allowed Tehran to continue selling some oil.

The latest sanctions come just several days before talks in Baghdad on Wednesday between Iran, the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

On Monday, the head of the UN nuclear agency arrived in Tehran on a one-day visit that diplomats say could lead to an agreement for further inspections of Iranian nuclear facilities. 

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Yukiya Amano and his two aides met with Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, as well as Iran's foreign minister and other officials. Amano's visit was focused on getting Iran to agree to terms that will allow IAEA probes of suspect Iranian sites, including the Parchin military complex where the agency had reported suspicious activities in the past.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday hardened his rhetoric towards Iran, saying "Iran threatens Israel and world peace."

"In the face of malicious intent, world leaders must show determination, and not weakness," Netanyahu said. "They must not make concessions towards Iran. They should present clear and unequivocal requirements."

Netanyahu repeated Israel's demands: Iran must give UN inspectors full access to all its nuclear facilities, must cease all uranium enrichment activities, and send all uranium enriched to 20% out of the country.