US Senate passes new Iran-Russia sanctions

US Senate approves sanctions against Russia over 2016 election
Tillerson to Testify in House as Russia Sanctions Vote Nears
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20 June, 2017

Citing a senior administration official, Politico reports that though US President Donald Trump's administration supports sanctioning Russian Federation, they are anxious that the new bill will tie their hands as they are trying to rebuild relations with Moscow.

The bill, which passed by a vote of 98-2, would ensure that President Donald Trump could not unilaterally lift sanctions against Russian Federation; any attempt to do so would have to be approved by Congress.

The new sanctions aim to impose new restrictions on Iran's ballistic missile program and to punish Tehran for "supporting terrorism and human rights violations". It also creates a congressional review process if the executive branch eases current sanctions.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday called on lawmakers to grant "flexibility" to the White House in dealing with Russian Federation as U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed new Russian Federation sanction bill.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had agreed "with the sentiment" of holding Russian Federation accountable but had urged Congress not to pass any legislation that could harm a "constructive dialogue" with Moscow.

In other words, the Trump administration may (again) be betting that loyalty to the president - or more likely, fear of his political base - will be more important to House Republicans than the omnipresent suspicions over, and investigation into, possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation, as well as the president's seeming attempts to dismiss that investigation.

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The bill also includes new sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile program and other activities not related to the worldwide nuclear agreement reached with the United States and other world powers. In a 100-member Senate, 97 voted in favor of new sanctions, while only two members; Mike Lee and Rand Paul voted against it. This bipartisan amendment is the sanctions regime that the Kremlin deserves for its actions, ' said Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen, another leader of the push for the legislation.

The Republican-led Senate unanimously approved a measure emphasizing the importance of NATO's mutual defense pact, a not-so-subtle dig at President Donald Trump.

The bill penalizes Moscow for interfering in the 2016 election by imposing sanctions on key sectors of Russia's economy, including mining, metals, shipping and railways.

The amendment reportedly has not thrilled the White House, which wants to retain its unilateral authority to impose and lift sanctions. The White House hasn't weighed in on the legislation but says it's "committed" to the existing Russian sanctions. The Trump administration has pushed back against the bill, and his fellow Republicans hold a commanding 238- to 193-seat majority in the chamber.

"We see destabilizing act after destabilizing act [by Iran], from missile launches to arms transfers to terrorist training to illicit financial activities to targeting Navy ships and detaining American citizens", said the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Republican Bob Corker of Tennessee.


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