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Senate bill would target Iranian bank transactions

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. Senate Banking Committee approved a bill that would effectively cut Iran off from international banking transactions. 

The Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Human Rights Act of 2012, approved by a voice vote Thursday, would sanction banks that have officers on the board of the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, or SWIFT, if the organization continues to process financial transactions for Iranian banks.

SWIFT is responsible for processing electronic bank transfers and serves as the final entry point for Iran into the global financial system.

The bill would also intensify sanctions on Iran’s energy and shipping sectors, while also punishing Iran on human rights violations by its leaders.

Among the new provisions would be immigration restrictions on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as well as provisions that would target Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and companies involved in joint energy ventures with them.

The legislation will now move to the full Senate for consideration. The bill was initiated by Sens. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) on behalf of Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), a leader on Iran sanctions issues who is in Chicago recovering from a stroke.

A number of other bills under consideration in Congress also seek to enhance Iranian sanctions. One introduced this week by Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and an identical one by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) in the Senate would sanction the National Iranian Tanker Company and the National Iranian Oil Company if an investigation determines they have ties with the Revolutionary Guards. Menendez’s language was wrapped into the Johnson-Shelby bill. 

Also wrapped into the Senate bill was language authored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) that targets those who aid Iranians designated by the United States as human rights abusers and requires companies that trade on the U.S. stock exchange to disclose any trade with Iran.

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