The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will seek new sanctions against Iran but not Russia, although it will work on legislation to hinder Russia's recent actions in Europe, which have included increased troop movement near NATO members' borders as well as accusations of hacking efforts to influence European elections.
“We're not going to do a Russia sanctions bill,” Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told Politico on Monday. “The ranking member and I are in strong agreement on a pathway forward, and that's what we're going to do. We're going to do an Iran sanctions bill. It'll be done toward the end of this work period. We're also working together on a bill to push back against Russia in Europe and what they're doing, and those are the two courses of action that we're taking.”
The report came one day prior to President Donald Trump’s scheduled phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the first direct contact between the two heads of state after Trump said relations were lower than they’d ever been.
Corker also said he wanted to wait for the Senate Intelligence Committee to finish its investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election, which the country’s intelligence community has concluded did occur and was an effort to ensure a victory for Trump.
A spokesman for the committee’s ranking Democrat, Ben Cardin of Maryland, issued a statement that emphasized the senator planned to work with Corker on the Iran bill.
In January, just weeks before leaving office, President Barack Obama sanctioned four Russians and five Russian businesses, while shipping out 35 Russian diplomats and closing two facilities, as a response to the nuclear superpower meddling in the election.
The committee was considering bills that would put more sanctions on Russian as well as Iran, with the latter targeted in March by senators with a bipartisan bill following the Middle Eastern nation’s repeated ballistic missile tests and the actions of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which some believe serves as a supporter and trainer of Hezbollah, the Washington Post reported. The Lebanon-based group has previously been labeled as a terrorist organization by the United States.
In December, the Senate agreed, by a vote of 99-0, to extend sanctions on Iran for 10 years after the House of Representatives also nearly reached a unanimous conclusion the month prior. However, some viewed the extension of the Iran Sanctions Act as a potential means for Iran to back out of the multi-national Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the landmark agreement reached in July 2015 that stymied Iran’s nuclear production.
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