WASHINGTON: Senate easily passed legislation Thursday that would extend sanctions on Iran for 10 years, a move many supported as a way to ensure the U.S. maintains its leverage over the country and sends it to Obamas desk – @AceNewsServices

#AceNewsReport – Dec.01: Senate passage sends it along to the president’s desk for his signature.

The vote came after the House overwhelmingly approved the measure, known as the Iran Sanctions Extension Act, two weeks ago.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Thursday that the bill, which would preserve existing sanctions set to expire at the end of the year, is critical given Iran’s “continued pattern of aggression” and “efforts to expand its sphere of influence across the region.”

“This is even more important given how the current administration has been held hostage by Tehran’s threats to withdraw from the nuclear agreement, and how it has ignored Iran’s overall efforts to upset the balance of power in the greater Middle East,” he said.

Under the nuclear agreement between Iran, the United States and five other world powers, many sanctions were lifted or eased in exchange for Iran’s agreement to roll back its nuclear program and an inspections regime to try to enforce it. The Obama administration and supporters of the deal insisted that sanctions could easily “snap back” if Iran was found to have violated the terms of the deal.

But critics argued that sanctions, once lifted, could not easily be re-imposed because foreign investors previously barred from doing business with Tehran before the nuclear pact couldn’t easily cancel contracts and abandon their financial ties to the country.

The U.S. sanctions, which Congress first passed in 1996, target any outside investments in Iran’s energy sector to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons, and would have expired at the end of 2016 if Congress hadn’t acted.

In the months since the nuclear deal went into effect, Iran has complained that these non-nuclear related sanctions are preventing businesses from investing in the country, particularly the prohibition on Iranian access to the U.S. financial system. Tehran argues that the strict limits are preventing many companies from engaging in new business deals in Iran, in effect, subverting the economic benefits it expected the nuclear deal to produce.

Critics, however, countered that Iran is still suffering because foreign businesses are nervous about violating the new rules and risking U.S. sanctions on them and are reluctant to contribute to revenue to a top state sponsor of terrorist activity. The Obama administration has opposed the legislation, arguing that it already has the power to extend or impose additional sanctions on Tehran and the sanctions are no longer necessary after the nuclear deal.

Members of Congress, including key Democrats, are adamant that the existing sanctions remain in effect in order to demonstrate to Iran that the U.S. will respond to any provocations or violations of the nuclear agreement.

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