House extends Iran sanctions for 10 years

House of Representatives reauthorizes the Iran Sanctions Act for a period of 10 years.

Elad Benari,

Iranian flag
Iranian flag

The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed bills renewing sanctions on Iran for 10 years and imposing new sanctions on Syria, Reuters reported.

The House of Representatives voted by an overwhelming majority of 419 to one for a 10-year reauthorization of the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA), a law first adopted in 1996 to punish investments in Iran's energy industry and deter Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons.

The House also passed by voice vote a bill that would sanction the government of Syria, and supporters including Russia and Iran, for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The Iran measure will expire at the end of 2016 if it is not renewed, noted Reuters. It must still be passed by the Senate and signed by President Barack Obama in order to become law.

The Obama administration and other world powers reached an agreement last year in which Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

Despite the agreement, lawmakers said they wanted the ISA to stay in effect to send a strong message that the United States will respond to provocations by Iran and give any U.S. president the ability to quickly reinstate sanctions if Tehran violated the nuclear agreement.

The deal between Iran and the West was implemented at the beginning of this year, but later reports indicated that the Obama administration is considering easing financial restrictions that prohibit American dollars from being used in transactions with Iran.

That plan sparked anger among lawmakers opposed to the nuclear deal with Iran.

Many Republicans, joined by several Democrats, have been especially concerned by Iran's actions since the deal was officially implemented in January, including its test-firing of ballistic missiles in March.

In one of those tests, the Iranian regime fired a number of ballistic missiles in tests across the country. The words “annihilate Israel” were reportedly written on the missiles, and Iranian officials claimed the missile systems being developed were needed “to confront the Zionist entity” and to ensure “its collapse”.

Republican Representative Ed Royce, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee and the lead sponsor of the bill passed Tuesday, called the ISA "a critical tool."

"Its expiration would compound the damage done by the president's dangerous nuclear deal and send a message that the United States will no longer oppose the destructive role of Iran in the Middle East," said Royce, according to Reuters.

The vote took place one week after Republican Donald Trump was elected U.S. president. Lawmakers from both parties said they hoped bipartisan support for a tough line against Iran would continue under the new president.

Earlier this week, Republican Senator Tom Cotton said that Trump could reimpose sanctions on Iran, saying he agreed with the President-elect’s statement that the deal was “the stupidest deal I have ever seen”.