Senators to Release Bipartisan Proposal for New Iran Sanctions

by Betsy Woodruff

A bipartisan group of senators working to craft a proposal threatening new sanctions on Iran is poised to release the details of their plan either tonight or tomorrow morning, per a Senate aide familiar with the negotiations. 

The aide says that the agreement, brokered by Senator Robert Menendez (D., N.J.) and Senator Mark Kirk (R., Ill.), will impose new and stricter sanctions if talks between Iran, the U.S., and other nations fail to produce a long-term bargain by the end of the six-month period set out by the temporary Geneva deal reached a couple weeks ago. These higher sanctions could reduce Iran’s oil exports by at least 30 percent, as well as blacklist additional sectors of the country’s economy (such as mining, engineering, construction, and any other sector that the president deems to be “of strategic importance to the Iranian economy”). The proposed sanctions will also freeze all remaining Iranian foreign-exchange reserves.

This would add up to a stricter sanctions regime than the one the U.S. just agreed to relax — if the sanctions before the Geneva agreement were a 7, the aide says, the new sanctions that will kick in would be an 8.5.

He also says that the Menendez/Kirk agreement will require the automatic re-imposition of the original sanctions if it breaches the terms of the existing over the next six months, and then move the sanctions to the “8.5″ level in the following months.

The White House and State Department oppose the pending agreement, arguing it will undermine their ability to negotiate with Iran. And Iran’s foreign minister recently told Time that if Congress imposes new sanctions, even conditional ones like Menendez and Kirk will propose, then “the entire deal is dead.”

Senate negotiators hope to pass the sanctions before the end of the year, but that depends on whether or not Reid allows a vote on them. It would also require the House vote for the new sanctions before it recesses for the holidays, which could come as soon as this Friday, December 13.

The aide tells NRO there’s a 50–50 chance the details are released later tonight, and a 70 percent chance the deals are released by tomorrow morning.

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