Washington, DC -- Congressman Howard L. Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee today issued the following comment on the U.S. Senate’s failure to pass his Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act (H.R. 7112).

“Preventing Iran from developing the technology for nuclear weapons is one of the great national security challenges of our age, but thanks to Republican opposition the Senate could not take this step to make our country and our world safer,” Berman said. “The sanctions that the United States and the international community thus far have placed on Iran perhaps have squeezed Iran’s economy somewhat, but clearly not enough to slow down its nuclear program. The present strategy is not working. I’m disappointed, and the Iranian regime surely must be heartened that the Bush Administration has failed to produce the kind of results we need regarding Iran’s nuclear program.”

The Berman legislation consists mostly of two measures that the House had previously passed by votes of 397 to 16 (H.R. 1400) and 408 to 6 (H.R. 2347). Republican objections in the Senate kept it from coming to a vote there.

The measure would codify and expand export and import bans on goods to and from Iran, freeze assets in the U.S. held by Iranians closely tied to the regime, and render sanctionable a U.S. parent company if that parent company uses a foreign subsidiary to circumvent sanctions.

H.R. 7112 also expands the Iran Sanctions Act to cover not only oil and all natural gas but related industries. It authorizes state and local governments in the United States to divest from any company that invests $20 million or more in Iran’s energy sector. It increases U.S. export controls on countries that are directly involved in trans-shipment or illegal diversion of sensitive technologies to Iran. And it requires the Administration to report all foreign investments of $20 million or more made in Iran’s energy sector – action which not been taken, in spite of the existing law -- and to determine whether each such investment qualifies as sanctionable.

Since 1996, the Executive Branch has never implemented the sanctions in the Iran Sanctions Act, even though international companies have since completed well over a dozen sanctionable investment deals have since been concluded with Iran. Furthermore, the Bush Administration has yet to make a determination as to whether any of the investors are sanctionable. This bill will close that loophole.

The Berman legislation also reaffirms our nation’s commitment to multilateral diplomacy to increase pressure on Iran to give up its nuclear weapons program, and it explicitly states that nothing in this Act authorizes the use of force.

In urging his colleagues to support the measure in the House last week, Berman argued that “sanctions will never work unless we have buy-in and support from other key countries. And if the process of achieving that buy-in requires us to engage directly with Iran, that is certainly something we should do.”