The US Senate unanimously approved new economic sanctions on Friday aimed at further crippling Iran’s energy, shipping and port sectors, a year after the US Congress passed tough restrictions against Tehran.
The amendment, tacked onto a sweeping defense spending bill being debated by the chamber, passed 94-0 and should sail through the House of Representatives.
US Senator Robert Menendez introduced the measure out of concern that Iran was pressing ahead with its nuclear weapons drive despite earlier sanctions that had been hailed as the toughest-ever against the Islamic republic.
“Yes, our sanctions are having a significant impact, but Iran continues their work to develop nuclear weapons,” said Menendez, a Democrat.
He cited last week’s report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that Iran continues to defy the UN and world community by refusing to slow uranium enrichment, denying access to inspectors and conducting live tests of conventional explosives that could be used to detonate a nuclear weapon.
“By passing these additional measures ending sales to and transactions with Iranian sectors that support proliferation — energy, shipping, ship-building and port sectors as well as with anyone on our specially designed national list — we will send a message to Iran that they can’t just try to wait us out,” he said.
The vote came on the same day a defiant Iran denied it was pursuing nuclear weapons and threatened to withdraw from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which aims to stop the spread of atomic weapons.
Building on the US sanctions passed last year, the new amendment would designate Iran’s energy, port, shipping and ship-building sectors as “entities of proliferation” because they “support and fund Iran’s proliferation activities.”
Under the new rules, the US would sanction anyone selling or supplying certain commodities to Iran — including graphite, aluminum, steel and some industrial software — that are relevant to the country’s ship-building and nuclear sectors.
Despite tough US and European sanctions, Tehran has been able to bypass certain restrictions by accepting payment in forms like gold for certain exports.
The Menendez amendment targets such circumventions by seeking to prevent Iran’s central bank from receiving payment in precious metals.