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House vote nears on added sanctions against Iran

In February, Iranian television showed video of what was described as new uranium enrichment centrifuges.

IRANIAN TV/REUTERS

In February, Iranian television showed video of what was described as new uranium enrichment centrifuges.

WASHINGTON — House and Senate negotiators are pushing to finish a new round of stifling sanctions on Iran, targeting energy, shipping, and insurance sectors with punitive measures to derail Tehran’s suspected push for nuclear weapons.

Lawmakers hoped to unveil a final bill late Monday, with a House vote as early as Wednesday. Congress has just a week before a monthlong August recess and members see the legislation as the last chance to impose tougher penalties on Iran.

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Sanctions have broad bipartisan support in Congress and, in a crucial boost to the measure’s prospects, officials at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, said they support the legislation.

The draft bill would essentially sanction any transaction related to the energy sector and prohibit Iran from transferring money back to the country from oil sales to foreign nations.

Any company shipping proliferation-sensitive goods to Iran would be subject to penalties under the bill, a provision pushed by Senator Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat.

The bill also would deny visas and freeze assets on individuals and companies that supply Iran with technology that could be used against its citizens, such as tear gas, rubber bullets, and surveillance equipment.

The bill also extends the sanctions to providers of such products to Syria, where President Bashar Assad’s regime is accused of a bloody crackdown against protesters.

The bill targets Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and requires firms trading on the US stock exchange to disclose Iran-related business to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta called Monday for more time to allow the sanctions against Iran to work and disputed statements by top Israeli officials that the sanctions were doing nothing to stop Iran’s nuclear program.

Panetta, who is making a five-day trip through the Middle East and North Africa, said that although the effect of the sanctions ‘‘may not be obvious at the moment,’’ they are hurting Iran’s economy and forcing the country’s leadership to look for a diplomatic solution.

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said Sunday that the sanctions and diplomacy ‘‘so far have not set back the Iranian program by one iota.’’

The Obama administration wants Israel to give sanctions and diplomacy more time to steer Iran off its nuclear course, although Panetta repeated the administration’s standard line that ‘‘all options’’ are on the table in the event that nonmilitary pressure does not work.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican, and Senator Tim Johnson, a South Dakota Democrat and chairman of the Banking Committee, have been negotiating for weeks to reconcile a bill the House passed in December and one the Senate backed in May.

Some members of Congress have said the compromise sanctions legislation does not go far enough.

Proponents of tough sanctions had pressed negotiators to blacklist Iran’s energy sector, labeling it a ‘‘zone of proliferation concern’’ that effectively bans all business.

But the draft bill says the president shall impose sanctions and the provision is nonbinding.

Lawmakers also pushed for sanctions on the directors and shareholders of organizations like SWIFT, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, unless they stop providing services to the Central Bank of Iran.

Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, described the legislation as a ‘‘strong bill that fills numerous loopholes and tightens the sanctions requirements but it could be a lot tougher’’ if Congress understood as much about the psychology as legality. Dubowitz said Iran often figures out ways to get around the penalties.

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