Robert Menendez

US Senator for New Jersey
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Menendez, Kirk Amendment for Stronger Sanctions Against Iran Passes Unanimously in the Senate

December 1, 2011

Washington – The US Senate today approved an amendment authored by Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) unanimously by a 100-0 vote, to require sanctions on financial institutions that do business with the Central Bank of Iran. The sanctions would prohibit financial institutions that do business with the bank of Iran from opening or maintaining correspondent banking accounts in the United States. In the case of foreign central banks, the legislation would only apply to transactions for the sale or purchase of petroleum products and only after determining that the country with jurisdiction over the institution 1) has sufficient alternative petroleum supplies and 2)  where the country has not taken steps to significantly reduce its purchases of Iranian petroleum or petroleum products.  The amendment also exempts from sanctions transactions for food, medicine and medical devices.  The amendment seeks to deny Iran the resources for its nuclear weapons program.

“Iran’s nuclear ambitions threaten the national security of the United States and its allies,” said Senator Menendez.  “The Central Bank of Iran is complicit in Iran’s nuclear venture, financing the Iranian effort to acquire the knowledge, materials and facilities to enrich uranium and to ultimately develop weapons of mass destruction; assisting the Iranian government in the evasion of multilateral sanctions; and engaging in deceptive financial practices and illicit transactions.  If we are serious about stopping Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, we must be willing to follow the money that feeds its nuclear ambitions and to take real action against the Central Bank of Iran, starving the regime of the resources it needs to advance its terrorist agenda.”

“The United States cannot accept an Iran with nuclear weapons,” Senator Kirk said.  “As the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, it’s quite likely that the Iranian regime would transfer nuclear weapons to terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas.  We can be sure that an Iranian bomb would set off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East – from Saudi Arabia to Egypt.  The Central Bank of Iran is the primary bankroller of Iran’s global terror network, its nuclear program and other illicit activities.  The time has come to impose crippling sanctions on this terrorist and nuclear-financing institution.”

“There is proof beyond a shadow of a doubt that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon, and we must cut off those nuclear ambitions at the source by sanctioning the Central Bank of Iran,” said Senator Schumer. “Iran could be on the cusp of having at least one workable nuclear weapon within a year and another deadly bomb six months after that. The extreme and dangerous government of Ahmadinejad must be held accountable. I have long been a supporter of sanctioning the Central Bank of Iran, and am grateful the Senate has taken the next critical step to require sanctions on financial institutions that do business with the Central Bank of Iran.”

 In addition to Senators Menendez and Kirk, the amendment was co-sponsored by 52 additional Senators: Senator Ayotte (R-NH), Barrasso (R-WY), Bennet (D-CO), Blumenthal (D-CT), Blunt (R-MO), Boozman (R-AR), Boxer (D-CA), Brown (R-MA), Brown (D-OH), Cardin (D-MD), Casey (D-PA), Collins (R-ME), Coons (D-DE), Cornyn (R-TX), Crapo (R - ID), Feinstein (D-CA), Franken (D-MN), Gillibrand (D-NY), Graham (R-SC), Grassley (R-IA), Hatch (R-UT), Heller (R-NV), Johanns (R-NE), Klobuchar (D-MN), Kyl (R-AZ), Lautenberg (D-NJ), Lee (R-UT), Lieberman (D-CT), Manchin (D-W.Va), Merkley (D-OR), Mikulski (D-MD), Moran (R-KS),Murkowski (R-AK),Nelson (D-FL),Nelson (D-NE), Portman (R-OH), Pryor (D-AR), Risch (R-IO), Roberts (R-KS), Schumer (D-NY), Snowe (D-ME), Stabenow (D-MI), Tester (D-MT), Thune (R-SD), Toomey (R-PA), Udall (D-CO), Udall (D-NM), Vitter (R-LA), Warner (R-VA), Whitehouse (D-RI), Wicker (R-MS), Wyden (D-OR).

Summary of the Amendment:

SUMMARY OF AMENDMENT TO NDAA

SANCTIONING TRANSACTIONS WITH THE CENTRAL BANK OF IRAN.

(a)    Section 311, Patriot Act:  This section recognizes the Administration’s actions last week pursuant to Section 311 of the Patriot Act, and re-designates statutorily the entire Iranian Banking sector, including the Central Bank of Iran, as a jurisdiction of primary money laundering concern on account of the threat to government and financial institutions from Iran’s illicit activities, including its pursuit of nuclear weapons, its support for terrorism, and its efforts to deceive responsible financial institutions and evade sanctions

(b)    IEEPA: This section requires the President to block and prohibit all transactions in property and interests in property of Iranian financial institutions that touch U.S. financial institutions.  (currently these transactions are “bounced” or rejected if they involve non-designated banks. More than 20 major Iranian banks have been designated, including major state-owned banks).

(c)    Imposition of Sanctions:  After 60 days, requires that the President prohibit the opening or maintaining in the United States of a correspondent account or a payable-through account by a foreign financial institution that the President determines has knowingly conducted any significant financial transaction with the Central Bank of Iran AND authorizes, but does not require, imposition of additional sanctions under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. 

(d)   Exception for Sales of Food, Medicine and Medical Devices to the people of iran

(e)    Special Rule with respect to foreign central banks and state-owned banks:  This section extends the prohibition on correspondent and payable-through accounts to foreign central banks and foreign state-owned banks only insofar as the financial transactions they conduct or facilitate are for the sale or purchase of petroleum and petroleum products on or after 180 days from enactment.

(f)     Petroleum transactions: 

a.      Requires that the Energy Information Agency, in consultation with the Department of the Treasury, report 60 days after the date of enactment and every 60 days thereafter on the availability and price of non-Iranian petroleum and petroleum products on the world market.

b.      Based on this report, the President must make a determination 90 days after enactment and every 180 days thereafter on whether the price and supply of petroleum and petroleum products from non-Iranian suppliers is sufficient to allow purchasers to significantly reduce their purchases from Iran.

c.       Sanctions for Petroleum purchases would not be triggered for 180 days after enactment and would apply only if the President determines that there is sufficient alternative supply on the world market, but would not apply if the country has significantly reduced its oil purchases during that 180-day period, and continues to significantly reduce its purchases in each successive 180-day period thereafter.

(g)    Waiver:  Provides for renewable 120 day waiver if the President determines that a waiver is vital to the national security of the United States.

(h)     Multilateral Diplomacy Initiative. This section requires the President to engage in a  multilateral diplomacy initiative to persuade countries purchasing oil from Iran to limit Iran’s use of revenue from such purchases to non-luxury consumers goods in the country purchasing its oil and to prohibit purchases by Iran of military or dual-use technology (MTCR list, Chemical Weapons Convention list, Nuclear Suppliers Group list, Wassenar) or any other item that may contribute to Iran’s conventional, nuclear, chemical or biological weapons program. It also requires outreach to non-Iranian petroleum-producing countries to persuade their governments to increase their output of crude oil and thus minimize the impact on the price of oil, with reports on the results of such efforts every 180 days.

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