Senate Passes Sanctions on Iran and Russian Federation

Western sanctions damaged the Iranian economy in recent years with inflation soaring and the rial depreciating against major currencies

A day earlier, the Senate voted to adopt an amendment to the bill that would expand sanctions against Russia, CBS News reported.

On Wednesday, the Senate voted 97-2 to codify those sanctions and others into law, and prevent President Trump, who has been alarmingly warm toward the authoritarian regime in Moscow, from undoing them at will.

The Senate maintains that the Iran sanctions that target its ballistic missile programme, destabilizing activities in the region and support for terrorist groups do not violate the Iran nuclear deal, which saw an easing of other sanctions. This massive project, which would link Russia to Germany while bypassing Ukraine, would double the Russian natural-gas company Gazprom's capacity to move oil directly into Europe and make the Continent even more dependent on Russian resources.

In a almost unanimous vote, the U.S. Senate on Thursday approved new sanctions against Iran and Russian Federation that also limit President Donald Trump's administration from weakening existing sanctions against Moscow.

To become law, it still must pass the House of Representatives and be signed by Trump. That provision also mandates that Congress approve any easing of sanctions against the Kremlin.

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It also aims to punish Russia's Vladimir Putin for interfering in last year's U.S. election, and to make it tougher for the White House to roll back sanctions.

However, they could not predict if it would come up for a final vote before lawmakers leave Washington at the end of July for their summer recess. Senators Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders were the only two "no" votes. The bill includes a mechanism requiring congressional review of any decision to ease the Russian Federation sanctions.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson questioned the legislation on Wednesday, urging Congress to ensure that any sanctions package "allows the president to have the flexibility to adjust sanctions to meet the needs of what is always an evolving diplomatic situation". The Trump administration has pushed back against the bill, and his fellow Republicans hold a commanding 238- to 193-seat majority in the chamber. The White House has not yet released a statement on the president's reaction to the sanctions bill. Certain Russian industries, like its mining and metals industries, would also be targeted.

However, Sen. Robert Menendez was skeptical, telling Politico, "I just cannot fathom how House Republicans could ultimately, with everything that's going on with Russia's nefarious actions, try to either deep-six the bill or dramatically change it". When this bill comes to the president's desk, he should sign it, and join the consensus against Putin's regime.

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