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House passes two sanctions bills, sending foreign policy message on Iran and Syria

The House laid down markers Tuesday as to how it will try to shape foreign policy going into the new administration by passing two sanctions bills: one targeting Iran, the other Syria.


The House overwhelmingly passed a 10-year extension of the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) by a vote of 419 to 1. The ISA forms the basis for energy, banking and defense sanctions against Iran’s nuclear and missile activities, and was set to expire at the end of the year.


The House also passed by voice vote a measure imposing new sanctions on anyone who provides the Syrian government with financial, material or technological support — a category that includes Russia and Iran — in an effort to “halt the wholesale slaughter of the Syrian people.”


The Obama administration had sought to delay both measures, though the president never threatened a veto, and President-elect Donald Trump has yet to weigh in on either bill. But the bills are a message from the House that it favors a strict approach to dealing with Tehran and international powers helping Syria’s government target civilians in that country’s civil war — even if the White House would rather be left to its own devices.


Though the United States and other parties agreed last year to eventually lift certain sanctions on Iran in exchange for Tehran scrapping its nuclear program, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have long argued that an extension of the ISA is necessary to ensure that there are punitive measures to “snap back” to if Iran violates its obligations under the nuclear deal.


Since then, the Obama White House has indicated that it thinks the ISA is unnecessary, asserting that the president already has the authority to sanction Tehran over any violations of the deal, as well as over recent ballistic missile activity and other aggressive moves. Congressional leaders don’t accept this argument.


Read more about the sanctions here: