New York Times: President Obama on Thursday signed into law new unilateral American sanctions on Iran that go beyond the penalties imposed by the United Nations last month as he tries to escalate the pressure on Tehran to halt its nuclear enrichment program.
The New York Times
By PETER BAKER
WASHINGTON — President Obama on Thursday signed into law new unilateral American sanctions on Iran that go beyond the penalties imposed by the United Nations last month as he tries to escalate the pressure on Tehran to halt its nuclear enrichment program.
The new law, passed by Congress on overwhelmingly bipartisan votes last week, tries to further restrict investment in Iran’s energy sector and cut off financing for the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps that oversees nuclear and missile programs. It also cracks down on federal contractors that do business with Iran.
“With these sanctions, along with others, we are striking at the heart of the Iranian government’s ability to fund and develop its nuclear program,” Mr. Obama said at a bill-signing ceremony in the East Room. “We’re showing the Iranian government that its actions have consequences. And if it persists, the pressure will continue to mount, and its isolation will continue to deepen.”
The new sanctions contribute to a strategy under which the United States, Australia, Canada and Europe take individual actions on top of the measures approved by the United Nations Security Council in June. With Russia and China holding veto power on the council, there were limits on how far the United Nations would go in penalizing Iran. But the subsequent unilateral actions are intended to increase the pain on the Tehran government.
The law signed by Mr. Obama imposes penalties on foreign entities that sell refined petroleum to Iran or assist Iran with its domestic refining capacity. It also requires that American and foreign businesses that seek contracts with the United States government certify that they do not engage in prohibited business with Iran.
A New York Times analysis in March found that the federal government had awarded more than $107 billion in contract payments, grants and other benefits over the past decade to foreign and multinational American companies while they were doing business in Iran. That included $15 billion paid to companies that defied American sanctions by making large investments that helped Iran develop its vast oil and gas reserves.
Led by Representative Howard Berman, Democrat of California, and Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, lawmakers added tough new provisions in the final days before passage of the law. Under the law, foreign banks that deal with the Revolutionary Guard or other blacklisted Iranian institutions like Iranian banks involved in terrorism would be restricted or banned entirely from the American financial system.
Mr. Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he hoped that the law would “provide the president with the tools he needs to persuade Tehran to permanently abandon its nuclear weapons program.”
The law produced one of the few moments of consensus in Washington. Joining Mr. Obama on stage at the White House was Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the second-ranking House Republican.
“The president has bipartisan support to carry out his authority to sanction those international entities who serve as enablers of the Iranian nuclear program,” Mr. Cantor said.