Senate passes Iran sanctions bill

The new sanctions on Iran would target the country's oil and banking industries, as well as other sectors.

Story highlights

  • "Iranians need to know we mean business," Sen. Harry Reid says
  • The new sanctions would take aim at Iran's oil and banking industries
  • A dispute over including a threat of U.S. force stalled the bill last week
  • Iran says its nuclear work is peaceful; new talks are scheduled for Wednesday

The U.S. Senate unanimously voted to tighten sanctions on Iran on Monday, three days after a dispute over whether to include the threat of American force stalled the legislation.

The new sanctions would target Iran's oil and banking industries, as well as other sectors. The measure passed the Senate on a voice vote Monday evening, two days before a new round of talks between Iran and leading U.N. members in Baghdad.

"Today the Senate has showed we can still act in a bipartisan way on important priorities," said Sen. Tim Johnson, D-South Dakota, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.

Passage came after senators agreed to add language warning that military force would be an option available to the United States if Iran seeks to build a nuclear weapon. But the measure also states that nothing in the legislation authorizes military action.

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The House of Representatives passed a similar bill in December, but demands for those competing messages stalled the bill in the Senate last week. Republicans blocked passage after complaints that the language wasn't tough enough, leading Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, to complain that he was being "jerked around."

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Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said the legislation now makes clear that "all options" could be considered, echoing previous statements by President Barack Obama.

"I hope sanctions will work," Graham said. "But this is a clear statement by the United States Senate, backing up our president, that when it comes to Iran having a nuclear capability, there will be more than sanctions on the table -- and the Iranians need to know that."

Meanwhile, Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul insisted on language that explicitly noted that nothing in the bill "shall be construed as a declaration of war or an authorization of the use of force" against either Iran or Syria, an Iranian ally now fighting a popular uprising against its government. Paul, the son of two-time GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul, was pleased by the bill's passage, spokeswoman Moira Bagley told CNN.

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And Reid said after the vote, "Iranians need to know we mean business."

Aides from both parties said the House and Senate bills will need to be reconciled after the Senate amendments.

Iran has insisted that its production of enriched uranium is meant to fuel civilian nuclear power plants, and U.S. intelligence believes any previous weapons-related research was halted in 2003. But the Islamic republic has refused international demands to halt its nuclear fuel program, and the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency said in November that it was up to Iran to demonstrate the peaceful nature of its atomic research.

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Meanwhile, Iran's economy has been crippled by existing sanctions imposed by the United Nations, the United States and the European Union. Eighty percent of Iran's foreign revenues are derived from oil exports, and an embargo by the EU set to go into effect in July will put further pressure on its economy.

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