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Source: The Hill

Nov 3, 2023

House passes bill aimed at expanding Iran oil sanctions 


The House on Friday passed a bill aimed at punishing entities who facilitate the trade of Iranian oil — including refineries and ports. 

It passed 342-69, with 133 Democrats voting with nearly every Republican in favor. Sixty-eight Democrats and Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) voted “no.”

The same bill has been introduced with bipartisan support in the Senate, but it’s not clear whether or when the upper chamber will take it up.

Kimberly Donovan, director of the Atlantic Council’s economic statecraft initiative, said that the legislation is not very different from existing sanctions on Iran.

“The sanctions that are currently in place on Iran, and especially their energy sector, are quite expansive,” Donovan said. 

“I’m not exactly sure how this advances the ball or how this would further really, meaningfully impact Iran’s ability to sell its oil,” she added. 

She also said that the bill’s sanctions on ports could be some degree of escalation since “at least historically, Treasury hasn’t really gone after foreign ports.”

Donovan noted that codifying the sanctions could make it more difficult to lift them in the case of an agreement like the Iran deal, under which the Obama administration loosened sanctions on Iran in exchange for an agreement for Iran not to pursue weapons-grade uranium. 

The bill’s passage comes amid a war between Israel and Hamas, a Palestinian militant group that governs the Gaza Strip and has been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. 

Iran has backed Hamas for decades, though U.S. officials have not confirmed whether Iran was directly involved in an October attack on Israel that sparked the latest bout of violence. 

Nevertheless, the issue has put a spotlight on Iranian oil, which represents a significant piece of the country’s economy. 

Despite existing U.S. sanctions, Iran has been able to export oil. Analysts have said that China is a major buyer, and note that sanctions enforcement may be difficult for transactions that don’t touch American financial markets. 

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