U.S. senators from both major political parties introduced legislation on March 23 to tighten sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile launches and other non-nuclear military activities.
Authored by leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and co-sponsored by seven senators each from the Republican and Democratic parties, the bill mirrors the harder line against Tehran taken by President Donald Trump and is considered likely to pass in the Senate.
"The spirit of bipartisanship of this important legislation underscores our strong belief that the United States must speak with one voice on the issue of holding Iran accountable for its continued nefarious actions across the world as the leading state sponsor of terrorism," said Democratic Senator Robert Menendez.
Committee Chairman Bob Corker said the bill targets Iran's "destabilizing actions" that threaten U.S. allies in the Middle East. It was introduced on the eve of an annual Washington conference of the influential pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC.
The bill would make sanctions mandatory for anyone involved with Iran's ballistic missile program. And it would apply sanctions to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) while putting into law sanctions already imposed by the executive branch on individuals tied to Iranian support for alleged terrorism.
The IRGC, an elite military body, is a powerful political force in Iran and it has a broad presence throughout Iran's economy.
The legislation would also require the U.S. president to freeze the assets of any person or entity involved in specific activities that violate the UN arms embargo on Iran.
Iran has maintained that legislation toughening non-nuclear sanctions violate its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
But the bill's authors insist its was written carefully to avoid interfering with that agreement.
Trump has made it clear that he wants to take a tough stance against Iran, and Corker said he consulted with the White House in drafting the bill.
In February, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on 25 individuals and entities in Iran, which it said were just "initial steps" in response to Iran's repeated testing of ballistic missiles, which the United States maintains is in violation of UN resolutions.
Tehran has also angered Washington by supporting Yemen's rebel Huthi movement, and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his country's six-year-long civil war.
Menendez told the Reuters news agency that the bill was intended to take a "regional" strategy because of the breadth of Iran's activities in the Middle East.
"It calls for a regional strategy because Iran is obviously involved in the region in various ways, whether it be in Yemen or Syria and beyond," he said.
With reporting by Reuters, Politico and Jewish Telegraphic Agency