US Senate votes to impose new sanctions on Russian Federation and Iran

Thursday's legislation punishes Iran for its ballistic missile testing and human rights violations, and applies terrorism sanctions to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Graham, a South Carolina Republican who ran against Trump for the Republican presidential nomination, says the unanimous vote "should reassure our allies and give notice to our enemies that America stands firmly in support of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and our Article 5 commitment".

The measure also asserts a role for Congress if the White House opts to ease any sanctions against Moscow.

Corker told reporters that "I only have talked a little bit with" Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who testified twice this week that the White House would prefer "flexibility" to adjust Russian Federation sanctions as needed.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that new US sanctions on Russia will damage ties between the two countries.

The U.S. Senate has overwhelmingly approved legislation that included tougher new sanctions against Russian Federation and Iran, making it more hard for President Donald Trump to ease existing restrictions without congressional approval.

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"This is a very, very strong piece of legislation", Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker said on the Senate floor.

"We must not allow this kind of interference in our elections become a normal process", said Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire. It's not the first time Congress has sought such a requirement, however, as a similar mechanism was passed in 2015 regarding sanctions on Iran after President Obama pursued his landmark nuclear deal with the country. In a series of tweets, Kerry urged lawmakers to "tread carefully" in pushing ahead with new Iran sanctions in the wake of President Hassan Rouhani's re-election to another four-year term. The bill would require a congressional review if President Donald Trump attempts to ease or end penalties against Moscow. "Russians guilty of conducting cyber attacks or supplying weapons to Syria's government", according to Reuters.

The Senate bill also would cement in law a series of executive orders signed by Obama and aimed at punishing Russian Federation for aggressive behavior, including its 2014 annexation of Crimea and support for separatist rebels in Ukraine's east.

"The legislation sends a very, very strong signal to Russian Federation, the nefarious activities they've been involved in", Sen. Republican Senator Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, were the only two "no" votes.

It's not clear what exact changes the White House wants to make to the bill, or that those changes would actually weaken the proposed penalties against Russian Federation, but Senate Democrats have been attempting to sound an alarm over just that possibility.

  • Phil Peters