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Senate OKs tougher sanctions on Iran

WASHINGTON (BP)–The U.S. Senate approved increased sanctions on Iran’s oil-related imports Jan. 28 in a move intended to help prevent the extremist Islamic regime from developing nuclear weapons.

Senators passed the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act in a voice vote. The House of Representatives approved similar legislation Dec. 15 in a 412-12 roll call.

Both bills call for the imposition of sanctions on anyone who knowingly enables Iran to continue its domestic oil production or who aids in the importation of oil products to the country. The Senate measure is more expansive. Among provisions only in the Senate version is one supporting divestment from or barring investment in Iran or companies investing in that country’s energy sector.

Differences in the bills will be addressed in a conference committee consisting of members of both houses before passage of a final version can be accomplished.

“I’m very pleased that the Senate has joined the House in deciding to get deadly serious with Iran’s rogue regime,” said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “These most recent sanctions have real teeth. It’s imperative that the House and Senate conference as soon as possible and get a strong bill to the president’s desk immediately.”

Senators from both parties applauded the vote.

“Passing this legislation sends Iran an important message that the United States is serious about keeping it from acquiring nuclear weapons,” Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said in a written statement.

Sen. John McCain, R.-Ariz., said he was “very pleased” with the action. He also said in a written release, however, he believes “we must focus on the appalling human rights violations of the rulers in Tehran.”

McCain drafted an amendment that would ban visas and freeze assets in the United States of Iranian officials who have committed human rights abuses against the country’s citizens. While it was not included in the Senate version, McCain said Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell indicated they would support it in the conference committee.

The Senate’s action came two days after Land and 45 other Christian leaders wrote to members of the body asking them to follow the example of the House.

“A nuclear-armed Iran is almost certain to initiate an arms race with other Middle Eastern and Arab nations who have reason to fear the religious, political and military ambitions of Iran’s extremist leaders,” said Land and the others in a coalition named Christians for a Nuclear-free Iran in a Jan. 26 letter to all 100 senators.

Describing Iran as the “world’s leading state sponsor of international terror,” the signers said they “must assume” the regime will provide nuclear weapons “to extremist groups that are declared and demonstrated enemies to America and her allies.”

The coalition called for quick action, because talks with Iran have proven fruitless.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the outgoing director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said in late November that negotiations with Iran to keep it from developing nuclear weapons are at a “dead end,” according to The Wall Street Journal. There is evidence Iran is able to produce low-enriched uranium and has tested missiles.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged China Jan. 29 to back stronger international sanctions on Iran.

“As we move away from the engagement track, which has not produced the results that some had hoped for, and move forward toward the pressure and sanctions track” in attempts to halt Iran’s development of nuclear weapons, “China will be under a lot of pressure to recognize the destabilizing impact that a nuclear-armed Iran would have in the Gulf, from which they receive a significant percentage of their oil supplies,” Clinton said, according to The Washington Post.

“It will produce an arms race,” Clinton said she told Chinese officials. “Israel will feel an existential threat. All of that is incredibly dangerous.”

In addition to Land, other Southern Baptist signers of the Jan. 26 letter from Christians for a Nuclear-free Iran were former Southern Baptist Convention presidents Jack Graham and James Merritt, as well as former North American Mission Board President Robert E. Reccord and conservative resurgence leader Paul Pressler.

Additional signers included Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council; Gary Bauer, president of American Values; Pat Robertson, president of the Christian Broadcasting Network; Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America; Tom Minnery, senior vice president of Focus on the Family; Mathew Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel, and Jordan Sekulow, director of international operations for the American Center for Law and Justice.
Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.