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U.S. House Approves New Sanctions On Iran Over Missiles, Terrorism

  • RFE/RL

Iran -- An Iranian long range missile Qadr is launched at an undisclosed location in Iran, March 9, 2016

Iran -- An Iranian long range missile Qadr is launched at an undisclosed location in Iran, March 9, 2016

The U.S. House passed two bills imposing new sanctions on Iran for continuing to develop ballistic missiles and denying the Iranian government and banks access to the U.S. financial system and dollars.

The House actions on July 14, which were aimed at undermining U.S. President Barack Obama's nuclear deal with Iran, came as Obama marked the one-year anniversary of the landmark accord by vowing to uphold it.

Obama has threatened to veto the House legislation, including a bill passed on July 13 that would prohibit any further U.S. purchases of heavy water from Iran as authorized under the nuclear agreement.

The House passed all of the bills on largely party-line votes of around 246-180 -- not a strong enough margin of approval to overcome a veto, which requires a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress.

Every congressional Republican opposed the nuclear deal with Iran, while most Democrats supported it, and a similar party-line split emerged on this week's legislation.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, said new sanctions are needed because the Obama administration has shown it does not intend to hold Iran accountable for its ballistic missile program, human rights violations, and support of terrorism.

"We want to penalize the Iranian government for their continued illegal activity," the top Republican said.

But Democrats called the GOP bills cynical attempts to score points with grass roots conservative constituents in an election year.

"This isn't a serious bill," Representative Eliot Engel of New York, the senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said of the sanctions bill.

"We should not relitigate this issue," he said of the bills to undercut the nuclear deal. "Our work now should be to hold Iran to its obligations and make sure the deal is being fully implemented."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on July 14 that the nuclear deal "has, in fact, made the world safer" by ensuring that Iran's nuclear program is peaceful in exchange for the elimination of many western economic sanctions.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif did not respond directly to the House vote, but he called the nuclear deal a "triumph of diplomacy over coercion" on Twitter, and said some U.S. politicians keep using the same "tired slogans" and "old methods that produce the same old failures."

The Iranian sanctions measures were among the last items passed by the House before Congress left Washington for a seven-week summer recess. There was no word on when, or whether, the measures would be taken up in the Senate.

With reporting by AP and Reuters
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