By Ron Kampeas · January 28, 2010 Jewish Telegraphic AgencyWASHINGTON (JTA) -- The U.S. Senate passed a comprehensive Iran sanctions bill.
The bill passed by voice vote Thursday evening hews closely to a companion bill passed last month in the U.S. House of Representatives; White House requests to roll back some of the harsher provisions were unheeded.
The bills target Iran's energy sector, singling out for sanctions any entity -- individual, company or even country -- that deals in refined petroleum with Iran, a major oil producer, but with a refining sector in disarray.
The Obama administration has preferred to emphasize multilateral sanctions targeting Iran's leadership coupled with diplomatic outreach. Both bills must now be reconciled and the final version is likely be signed by Obama, despite his reservations.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which led lobbying for the bills, urged swift passage and signing.
"Iran's possession of nuclear weapons capability would be a devastating blow to America's national security interests," spokesman Josh Block said. "The U.S. and our allies must impose biting diplomatic and economic pressure to try and peaceably prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and avoid confronting more distressing alternatives.
The bills allow Obama waivers for national security reasons. Obama's predecessors have exercised such waivers with earlier sanctions bills.