Washington, D.C. - The House International Relations Committee on Wednesday passed legislation to curb development of a nuclear weapons program in Iran by tightening economic sanctions.
The measure included a provision by Congressman Brad Sherman to prohibit foreign subsidiaries of U.S. corporations from conducting business with Iran.
Current law prohibits American firms from undertaking most transactions with Iran, but some companies, including Halliburton, have used wholly-owned foreign subsidiaries to skirt the law.
“It is a disgrace that American companies have cynically used Bermuda-triangle style corporations to avoid our sanctions laws,” Sherman said. “It is high time that this practice was expressly outlawed.”
Sherman’s provision strengthened the sanctions bill that he originally cosponsored to reauthorize provisions of the Iran Libya Sanctions Act. The bill would make it more difficult for the administration to ignore violations, and require the president to apply sanctions unless he finds a vital national security interest to waive them.
Since the sanctions law was enacted in 1996, there has been widespread investment in Iran’s energy sector in projects which could have triggered sanctions. Instead, both the Clinton and Bush administrations turned a blind eye to violations. The new measure would require the State Department to consider evidence of violations, and to explicitly decide whether violations occurred.
The bill also would authorize assistance for democracy and human rights activists in Iran, another provision Sherman has strongly supported.
“This bill is an important first step in developing an effective Iran policy,” Sherman said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues to strengthen this bill and our Iran policy overall.”
Sherman said he would propose a ban on all imports from Iran, seek to bar access to U.S. capital markets by firms that violate the law, and require the Bush administration to oppose World Trade Organization membership for Iran until it abandons its nuclear weapons program.