House subcommittee chairman seeks to renew Iran sanctions bills

The author of a controversial law designed to punish foreign oil companies that invest more than $20 million in Iran introduced a plan Wednesday to renew the legislation through August 2006. Republican leaders have pledged to renew the law this summer before it expires.


By the OGJ Online Staff

WASHINGTON, DC, May 23 -- The author of a controversial law designed to punish foreign oil companies that invest more than $20 million/year in Iran introduced a plan Wednesday to renew the legislation through August 2006. Republican leaders have pledged to renew the law before it expires in August.

House Subcommittee on the Middle East Chairman Benjamin Gilman (R-N.Y.) was an original sponsor of the Iran Libya Sanctions Act of 1996. The new legislation, H.R. 1954 has broad bipartisan support.

More than 190 congressmen co-sponsored the bill, including two key Republican leaders from oil-producing states (Reps. Don Young of Alas. and Billy Tauzin of La.).

Gilman said a markup of the bill in the House Committee on International Relations is scheduled for June 6 and that Republican leaders "would like to expeditiously move the bill to the floor."

The Senate is also poised to move quickly. Sens. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) are expected to introduce companion legislation soon.

The new bill would simply extend the existing law, which gives President Bush wide latitude on whether to impose economic sanctions. The Clinton Administration chose to use a provision in the law that allows the president to waive sanctions if it is in the national interest or if sanctions could impair national security.

Nevertheless, industry representatives oppose ILSA because they argue it has not discouraged investment in either Iran or Libya. Instead, the law has only succeeded in angering key US allies and left US companies at a competitive disadvantage.

Sanctions at the president's disposal include trade embargoes and suspension of direct foreign aid to a foreign country or company.

The White House has not officially responded to Gilman's legislation although the proposal could prove problematic for the administration. Vice-Pres. Dick Cheney has been a vocal critic of ILSA.

A White House energy task force report called on policymakers to review existing sanction policy but did not offer clear recommendations on the future. President Bush renewed an existing ban on US investment in Iran this past March. He has the power to lift that ban.

Recent US intelligence reports indicated Iran still is active in supporting terrorist activity aimed at disrupting the Middle East peace process.

However, some in the administration argue ILSA should not be renewed because it could make it more difficult for political moderates in Tehran to expand their power base.

Gilman and his supporters in Congress argue that their actions will not hurt reform efforts in the country because Iran's unfriendly foreign policies are controlled by "hard-liners" and "moderates" alike.

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