Bernie, Rand lone voices against Iran-Russia sanctions bill

“The U.S. has now moved one step closer to a potential war with Iran.”

SOURCEThe District Sentinel

Every single Democrat in the Senate joined every single Republican but one to pass a new sanctions package targeting Iran and Russia.

The vote was 98-2, with the opposition consisting entirely of Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

The measure broadens sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile activity. It applies new restrictions to foreign entities that do business with known suppliers of Tehran’s missile program, such as banks and energy companies.

In an amendment approved almost entirely by the Senate on Wednesday, Russian sanctions were applied to the package.

The legislative language would codify measures imposed against Moscow by the Obama administration at the end of 2016, and require Congressional approval before any current sanctions are repealed. It also applies new sanctions to components of Russia’s energy sector, and certain tech industries believed to be involved in malicious cyber activities.

The Trump administration voiced concern about how the measure might restrict the administration’s execution of foreign policy.

Sen. Sanders joined the entirety of the Democratic Party to support the Russian sanctions amendment, but voted no on the overall package. Sen. Paul rejected both policies.

The near-unified vote came a day after Capitol Hill was staggered by a mass shooting against Republican lawmakers who were practicing baseball at a park in the DC suburb of Alexandria, Va. The assault left Republican Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) in critical condition in the hospital, undergoing multiple surgeries stemming from a gunshot wound to the hip.

Two Capitol Police officers, a congressional staffer, and a lobbyist were also injured in the shootout, but none sustained life-threatening injuries.

The sanctions measure enjoyed broad bipartisan support before the incident, even though grassroots forces have been pressuring Democrats to shut down business in the upper chamber over Republicans’ efforts to ram through an Obamacare repeal.

Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is overseeing a secretive effort to craft and quickly pass a health care bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Democratic organizations are calling on lawmakers to jam up the process as much as possible.

A senior aide to a top Democratic Senator told Vox reporter Jeff Stein that the minority party won’t stake out a hardline opposition to the GOP’s American Health Care Act. In exchange, Democrats would seek Republican support for the Russian sanctions amendment.

More dovish lawmakers, Iranian-American activists, and Former Secretary of State John Kerry, meanwhile, are warning against the imposition of new sanctions on Iran at a time when the nuclear deal negotiated under the prior Obama administration appears to be working.

In April, the Trump administration certified that Iran is in compliance of the deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The new sanctions apply only to Iran’s ballistic missile activities, and thus, exist outside the realm of the nuclear agreement. The provocative action by the U.S. Congress, however, could unravel what were improving relations with Tehran.

“The U.S. has now moved one step closer to a potential war with Iran,” The DC-based National Iranian American Council said in a statement after the vote.

“It is now the responsibility of those Senators–in particular those who asserted contrary to evidence that this bill is wholly consistent with the nuclear deal–to ensure that Donald Trump does not use these authorities to undermine the accord or spark conflict with Iran,” the group added.


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Since 2010, Sam Knight's work has appeared in Truthout, Washington Monthly, Salon, Mondoweiss, Alternet, In These Times, The Reykjavik Grapevine and The Nation. In 2012, he worked as a producer for The Alyona Show on RT. He has written extensively about political movements that emerged in Iceland after the 2008 financial collapse, and is currently working on a book about the subject.