Bipartisan House Bill Toughens Penalties on Iran

Washington (AP) -

House leaders are pushing for tougher penalties on Iran to thwart its nuclear ambitions, introducing a bipartisan bill Wednesday that would pressure the U.S. to work with the European Union in cutting off Tehran’s access to the euro.

Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, the panel’s top Democrat, said their measure builds on current laws that have undercut the Iranian economy, causing high unemployment and inflation while daily oil production and the value of the country’s currency, the rial, have dropped.

The legislation would extend penalties, targeted now at financial entities, to human rights violators and individuals who transfer technologies to Iran that are used by human rights abusers. The bill would penalize individuals involved in censorship or corruption.

Under the measure, the secretary of state would be required to determine whether the country’s hard-line Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is a foreign terrorist organization. If that decision is made, the president would impose additional penalties.

“Iran’s continued march toward nuclear weapons is the gravest threat facing the United States and our allies,” Royce said in a statement. “We must build on existing sanctions to maximize economic pressure and prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.”

The bill is certain to attract strong bipartisan support. Earlier measures in the House and Senate targeting Iran’s central bank and other entities passed overwhelmingly.