August 1, 2013 | Quote

Days Before Rouhani to be Sworn In, US House Sends Message to Iran with Harsh New Sanctions

The US House of Representatives passed a bill on Wednesday containing punishing new sanctions against Iran, entrenching the US position on the Islamic Republic's controversial nuclear program just days before the inauguration of their new president, Hassan Rouhani.

The Senate is expected to support the legislation— the toughest sanctions package to date, targeting what remains of Iran's oil sector— once Congress reconvenes from its month-long summer recess, sources told The Jerusalem Post.

The bill aims to bring Iranian oil exports essentially down to zero within a year from full passage. Iran has already experienced a 60 percent decrease in oil exports since 2011 due to sanctions.

The US says there is spare capacity in the global market to replace Iran’s exports. Libyan oil production is back online since its revolution ended in 2011, and Saudi Arabia is prepared to accommodate Iran’s customers, with spare production capacity already at 2 million to 2.5 million barrels.

Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, said that House members were keen on voting on the bill before Rouhani's Sunday inauguration, and said the legislation would “massively intensify” ailing conditions in Iran.

Dubowitz noted that past sanctions regimens “tended to be front loaded,” suggesting that Iran might experience the impacts of this new round by the end of the year.

“Everything is really coming to a head in the next twelve months,” Dubowitz said.

On the House floor during debate on the bill, Representative Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota) stood nearly alone against his colleagues, saying that Mr. Rouhani ran his presidential campaign “on a policy of promise to pursue a path of moderation.”

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