It was a unanimous rebuke of the Obama administration, and it was massively underreported by the media: a 99-0 vote to extend sanctions on Iran that occurred at the beginning of December.
Now, Iran is fighting back, especially since it could give the United States leverage over Tehran for years to come.
According to the Washington Examiner, the move was meant to highlight Iran’s noncompliance with aspects of the nuclear deal. The Iran Sanctions Extension Act had also passed the House of Representatives by a 419-1 vote.
In the Senate, only Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders abstained from voting for it. Rep. Thomas Massie, a Kentucky Republican and noted libertarian and party dissenter, was the lone vote against it in the House.
The move was popular on both sides of the aisle. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said that the deal was important because of 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,” McConnell said.
Democrat Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey told the Senate that the sanctions vote was necessary to ensure that sanctions could “snap back” if there were violations.
“If the sanctions architecture has expired, then we have no sanctions which we can snap back,” he said, according to Politico. “The Iranians will know the consequences of any breach.”
The Obama administration has long insisted that sanctions could snap back on the Iranians as part of the Iran deal. However, many have expressed concern that contracts and increased rapprochement with Russia by various countries would make it harder for the sanctions to be put back into place.
The sanctions were set to expire at the end of 2016, and the Obama administration opposed the bill, claiming it already had all the authority it needed to extend sanctions if necessary. However, Congress made it pretty clear that at least some level of sanctions infrastructure was to remain in place if Tehran were to continue to violate the agreement.
And the sanctions aren’t anything minor, either. The Financial Times reported Monday that at least one oil company — BP — was holding off on going into Iran because it believed the next administration will take a harder line on the Iran deal and sanctions.
It’s about time that Congress grew a spine on Iran. After all, the Obama administration has repeatedly maintained that everything’s fine with their Iran deal, even as we’ve seen our sailors kidnapped by the Islamic republic and numerous violations of the agreement.
Perhaps that’s why Iran made it clear that they were nonplussed about the sanctions.
“As announced repeatedly by the country’s senior officials, the recent bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate to extend sanctions against Iran runs counter to (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) and the U.S.’s commitments under international law on non-interference in domestic and international relations of other countries,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry said on its website, according to the Tehran Times.
If they’re whining now, just wait until Jan. 20.