U.S. Lawmakers Reach Deal on New Iran Sanctions

U.S. lawmakers reach a compromise on new sanctions that will add additional pressure on countries that purchase Iranian oil.

Elad Benari ,

Iranian flag at the Olympic Village
Iranian flag at the Olympic Village

U.S. lawmakers are a step closer to finalizing new sanctions aimed at further restricting Iran's oil revenues, Reuters reported, after negotiators from the Senate and House of Representatives agreed upon a compromise bill on Monday.

If passed, the sanctions will add additional pressure on top of penalties imposed by the United States and European Union earlier this year on countries that fail to slash purchases of Iranian oil. The West hopes the sanctions will prevent Tehran from building nuclear weapons.

“The expanded energy sanctions contained in this critical legislation effectively blacklist the Iranian energy sector and anyone doing business with it,” Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement quoted by Reuters.

“Unless (Iranian leaders) come clean on their nuclear program, end the suppression of their people, and stop supporting terrorist activities, they will face deepening international isolation and even greater economic and diplomatic pressure,” Tim Johnson, Democratic chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, said in a statement.

Johnson added that the bill included new sanctions on sales of any goods or services to Iran's oil and gas sector, including insurance and reinsurance, and would hurt Iran's ability to do barter trades or oil-for-gold swaps to sell its oil cargoes.

Iran has maintained its nuclear program is for civilian purposes. Its economy has been damaged by existing sanctions and its oil production has slipped to the lowest level since 1988.

According to the Reuters report, Senate and House leaders have said they would like to pass the sanctions by the end of the week, when lawmakers are slated to leave for an extended recess. However, votes have not yet been scheduled.

The U.S. penalties imposed thus far have forced Iran's major trading partners to reduce their Iranian crude imports. The EU enacted a ban from July 1 on insuring ships carrying Iranian oil that has also crimped Tehran's oil exports.

Iran has been forced to shut off wells in its expansive oil fields, as Western sanctions reduce Tehran's vital crude oil exports by as much as 30%.

Tehran's current production levels to lows not seen in more than two decades, which has cost Iran billions in lost revenues.

In an attempt to sidestep the EU sanctions, Iran has offered to insure any foreign ships that enter its waters.

The United States recently warned the maritime industry that Iranian ships were still using other countries’ flags in an attempt to evade Western sanctions.

Sierra Leone is the latest country to revoke its flag for a vessel controlled by the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL), which is on the U.S. blacklist for its involvement in Iran's weapons program.

The United States said port authorities should be on the lookout for fabricated vessel registration and phony flags.