Senate Sanctions Bill Would Cut Off Iran's Access to $100B

Mark Kirk / AP

A bipartisan group of senators introduced Wednesday legislation that would block Iran's access to the country's foreign exchange reserves held in foreign banks, potentially worth up to $100 billion.

The new round of sanctions, proposed by a coalition led by Sens. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) and Joe Machin (D., W.V.), would cut off Iran's ability to work around sanctions by tapping into those foreign reserves, the New York Times reports:

The legislation, which has strong support, would be the first major new sanction confronting Iran since its inconclusive round of negotiations with the big powers last month on its disputed nuclear program. Despite Iran’s repeated denial, the West suspects it is aiming to be able to build nuclear weapons. [...]

"Closing the foreign currency loophole in our sanctions policy is critical in our efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability," the sponsors, led by Senator Mark Steven Kirk, an Illinois Republican, and Senator Joe Manchin III, a West Virginia Democrat, said in a statement on the new legislation, which they called "the Iran Sanctions Loophole Elimination Act."

It would impose severe penalties on any foreign financial institution that conducts foreign exchange transactions on behalf of Iran’s central bank or other Iranian entity that is already blacklisted by other sanctions. It would also be retroactive to Thursday, regardless of the passage date.