US House passes new Iran sanctions legislation

The Republican-dominated US House of Representatives has passed two bills imposing new restrictions on Iran one year after a historic nuclear agreement.

The lower chamber of Congress voted 246 to 179 Thursday to pass a new set of sanctions on the Islamic Republic and 246 to 181 for legislation to block its access to US financial systems.

The measures came a day after the House approved a bill to ban the purchase of “heavy water,” a byproduct of nuclear energy, from Iran. The White House announced in April that the US would buy $8.6 million worth of heavy water from Iran, drawing the ire of congressional Republicans.

The measures were put to vote hastily before Congress left Washington for the summer recess.

Administration officials have said that President Barack Obama will veto the bills if they land on his desk. But, the Senate must first approve the measures. The measures were spearheaded by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and were opposed by Democrats. In a letter to McCarthy this week, several Democrats, including long-time Iran hawks, accused the majority leader of circumventing the minority and dismissed the legislation as “an exercise in election-year politics.”

Republicans, who are in control of both the House and Senate, strongly opposed the nuclear agreement signed last July between Iran and the P5+1 group – the US, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany.

Under the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran agreed to limit its nuclear program and provide enhanced access to international atomic monitors in return for the termination of all nuclear-related sanctions.

Since then, congressional Republicans have introduced many sanctions bills and other legislation to undermine the deal that the administration views as a foreign policy legacy for Obama.

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