Washington - US Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) hailed the Senate Banking committee's approval and bipartisan support for the Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Human Rights Act. The bill, which contains many provisions from Menendez's Iran, North Korea, Syria Sanctions Consolidation Act, (S.1048) will further enhancepressure on the Iranian regime to halt its illicit nuclear weapons program. Menendez and Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) co-authored an amendment in December to the National Defense Authorization Act that imposed sanctions on financial institutions doing business with the Central Bank of Iran. Their amendment has led to a 25 percent drop in the Iranian currency and encouraged the European Union to take similar action and impose an embargo on Iranian oil.

Menendez said: "This legislation will thwart the work-arounds that Iran has devised to circumvent the U.S., EU and UN sanctions regimes, tighten the noose on the Iranian government, and send a message to the world that there is a choice - you can either do business with Iran or the United States, but not both. The bill will have a real impact on Iran's energy sector and its revenue: It expands the sanctions available under the Iran Sanctions Act; sanctions shippers that transport WMD or terrorism-related materials to or from Iran; imposes liability on U.S. companies whose foreign subsidiaries are violating U.S. sanctions law; expands sanctions on Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps Officials, agents, and affiliates; and creates a comprehensive strategy to promote internet freedom in Iran. This legislation is a logical next step in our sanctions regime and our efforts to stymie the regime's flow of dollars into its nuclear fund."

Earlier this week, the Senator met with Jack and Judy Young, of Moorestown, NJ, whose son Jeffrey was killed on October 23, 1983, when an Iranian bomb destroyed the Marine Corps Barracks in Lebanon. The Senator's provision included in the legislation will finally allow families like the Young's to enforce the judgment against Iran using Iranian assets being held at Citibank in NY.

"The Young's have waited long enough for the justice their son deserves," said Menendez. "With this bill, we will have the power we need to enforce the judgment against Iran and finally compensate these families who have suffered enough."

The Committee adopted seven Menendez Amendments which included measures to:

  • Sanction Iranian-Energy Joint Ventures: This amendment would capture ongoing joint ventures between the Iranian regime outside of Iran, including joint ventures between the regime and certain governments in the Western Hemisphere.
  • Impose Visa Restrictions on Senior Iranian Officials, President Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ali Khameini: This amendment imposes immigration restrictions on senior Iranian officials and family members, including the Supreme Leader, the President, Members of the Cabinet, members of the Assembly of Experts,senior members of the Intelligence Ministry, members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps with the rank of brigadier general or above, and members of paramilitary organizations such as Ansar-e-Hezbollah and Basij-e Motaz'afin.
  • Investigate of the National Iranian Oil Company/Tanker Company as IRGC Entities: This amendment requires the Treasury Department to make a determination under CISADA about whether the National Iranian Oil Company and the National Iranian Tanker Company are Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps entities. If it concludes that they are IRGC entities,financial sanctions would apply to the financial institutions that facilitate transactions with NIOC and NITC.
  • Ensure Justice for Victims of Iranian Terror: This amendment, co-authored with Senator Brown (OH),makes it so that the victims of the 1983 Marine Corps Barracks bombing in Lebanon and the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia will be able to attach two billion in Iranian Central Bank assets being held at a New York Bank.
  • Provide Authority to Sanction SWIFT for Facilitating Financial Transactions with Iran: This amendment, co-authored with Senator Roger Wicker (R-MI) and inspired by Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), would provide the authority to the Executive Branch to sanction SWIFT*, its directors, or its significant shareholders.It also compels a report by the Secretary of the Treasury no later than 90 days after its enactment on the status of efforts to ensure that SWIFT has cut off services to designated Iranian banks and the Central Bank of Iran. Its Sense of the Congress encourages U.S. diplomatic initiatives with the EU on this issue by stating, "At a time when financial institutions around the world are severing their ties with such Iranian financial institutions, it is inconsistent and troubling that financial communications services providers continue to service those financial institutions, particularly with respect to the European cooperative SWIFT, which-(A) is subject to the prohibition of the European Union on providing economic resources to financial institutions designated for the imposition of sanctions by the European Union; and (B) notes in its own bylaws that it reserves the right to expel a SWIFT user that may adversely affect SWIFT's "reputation, brand, or goodwill, for instance if the...SWIFT user is subject to sanctions (for example, UN or EU)", as is the case with Iranian financial institutions."

*SWIFT's (the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications) annual report notes that 19 Iranian banks and 25 Iranian institutions use SWIFT, and that in 2010 they sent 1,160,000 messages and received 1,105,000 messages. Primary Iranian users of Swift's services include Banks Mellat, Sepah, Saderat, Post and Iran's central bank-all of them designated by the U.S. Treasury.