House approves extension of Iran sanctions, facilitating a US pullout if Trump wants
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House approves extension of Iran sanctions, facilitating a US pullout if Trump wants

Rep. Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, speaking on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Sept. 8, 2015. (Molly Riley/AP Images)

Rep. Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, co-sponsored a bill extending Iran sanctions for 10 years. (Molly Riley/AP Images)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. House of Representatives approved an extension for 10 years of Iran sanctions, including many currently under waiver as part of the Iran nuclear deal, in a move that could pave the way for President-elect Donald Trump to pull out of the deal.

The bill approved late Tuesday in a 419-1 vote extends the sanctions to the end of 2026. They were due to expire on Dec. 31.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee in a statement urged the Senate to pass a companion bill. Congress is in its lame duck session, and there are not many working days left before the sanctions lapse. President Barack Obama, who is leaving office, has said he would not oppose such an extension.

The Iran Sanctions Act “provides the basic architecture of U.S. sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program and other dangerous activities, including its support of terrorism, illegal arms trade and illicit ballistic missile program,” AIPAC said in a statement thanking the House for approving the extension. AIPAC vigorously opposes the deal and worked unsuccessfully to have Congress kill it last year.

Renewal of the sanctions could facilitate the United States opting out of the Iran nuclear deal, which exchanged a nuclear rollback for sanctions relief. To pull out, Trump as president would need only to stop waiving existing sanctions.

Without renewal, pulling out of the deal could be more complicated, requiring proactive executive actions by Trump. Until recently, Democrats had wanted a clean reenactment of the kind passed Tuesday; Republicans had hoped to add provisions that would potentially have forced U.S. withdrawal from the deal, even without presidential action. The disagreement had delayed action on the sanctions.

Republicans conceived the strategy of adding further restrictions to existing sanctions anticipating a win by Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic rival, who had vowed to uphold the deal. With Trump’s election, passing additions to the existing sanctions becomes less necessary for those who oppose the deal because he has said he wants to renegotiate the agreement, if not pull out entirely.

What happens in the case of a U.S. pullout is not clear. Iran signed the deal with six major powers, and the other five could remain committed to the deal, even if the United States pulls out.

Complications embedded in a U.S. pullout involve third parties who have renewed dealings with Iran since the agreement went into place earlier this year, and who would be sanctioned once a president ended waivers. A Trump administration would have to decide whether to force U.S. entities not to do business with the third parties; that could be sensitive when the parties are in nations allied with the United States.

Reps. Ed Royce, R-Calif. the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., its top Democrat, sponsored the bill. Only Rep. Thomas Massey, R-Ky., voted against the measure.