Congressional Republicans are planning to introduce legislation this week to ensure tougher measures targeting Iran that would add to President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure”.
Washington Free Beacon first reported the story based on information it received from the Republican Study Committee (RSC), the largest GOP caucus in Congress. The report says that Iran, Russia and China will be affected by the planned legislation. Its backers hope to receive some Democratic support both in the Senate and in the House of Representatives, where they do not hold a majority.
The plan is to tighten sanctions on Iran by mandating that all waivers currently attached to U.S. sanctions to be stopped. The Trump administration has allowed Iraq to buy electricity from Iran, which can generate hundreds of millions of dollars for the cash-strapped government in Tehran. Similarly, it aims to cut U.S. taxpayer supported aid to countries in the region where Iran has significant influence, such as Lebanon.
It is not clear if the administration would want Congressional Republicans to interfere in this sensitive foreign policy issue. For example, the exemptions offered to Iraq have been repeatedly renewed because the administration needs to keep the Iraqi government on its side. Iraq has little choice but to buy energy from Iran. Despite its huge oil income in since the downfall of Saddam Hussein consecutive governments in Baghdad have failed to solve many of the country’s infrastructure issues, including electricity shortages.
Under the Republican plan, the administration will be barred from lifting any sanctions without first securing the consent of the House and Senate. It also aims to make sure steps are taken not to allow Iran to buy and sell weapons once a United Nations arms embargo expires in October.
“Other sanctions would target Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s multibillion-dollar financial empire, as well as the country's petrochemical, financial, and automotive sectors”, Free Beacon reports.
Last week, Tehran and Washington succeeded in a prisoner swap for the second time in six months. Trump thanked Iran for agreeing to the deal and once again urged its leaders to negotiate with the U.S. Iran’s response has been negative.