Congress Backs State-Level Iran Sanctions Amid Fierce Debate

Iranian officials have said new sanctions could kill nuclear deal


Sen. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) / AP


Members of Congress expressed Tuesday their full support for U.S. states to continue imposing sanctions on Iran due to its support for terrorism, violation of human rights, and other rogue activities, according to a new congressional measure obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

As the Obama administration begins to lift sanctions on Iran under the parameters of the nuclear agreement, the lawmakers are urging state and local governments to keep the pressure on Iran.

The bipartisan measure is backed by key lawmakers in both the House and Senate and maintains that U.S. law authorizes state and local governments to enact sanctions on Iran and those that do business with the Islamic Republic.

The resolution comes amid a debate over whether states have the right to continue imposing sanctions on Iran. The Obama administration has been dismissive of such efforts and has pressured Congress to give up the fight in order to preserve the nuclear agreement.

Iranian officials have maintained that any new U.S. sanctions would be a dealbreaker and force the country to walk away from the agreement.

The measure states that the nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, does not impact the legal authority of states and local government to level sanctions on Iran for its terrorism-related activities and human rights violations, according to a copy of the measure shared with the Free Beacon.

"States have explicit authority granted by Congress and the executive branch through the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 to enact sanctions against Iran or entities that do business with Iran and cannot have such actions be pre-empted by Federal law or regulation," the new measure states.

The measure goes on to "strongly support" state and local governments that target "Iran’s illicit activity, including divestment of assets from companies investing in Iran and prohibition of investment of the assets of the State or local government in any person" determined to be working with Iran, according to the resolution.

At least 30 states and the District of Columbia have imposed sanctions forcing divestment from Iran. Eleven of these states also have laws prohibiting local governments from giving contracts to any company doing business with Iran.

"With this bipartisan measure, Congress stands with the 30 states and the District of Columbia that have imposed sanctions against Iran’s threatening behavior," Sen. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.), a leading supporter of Iran sanctions, told the Free Beacon.

"As the Iran nuclear deal hands over more than $100 billion to the world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism, it’s critical for the United States to do all it can to prevent Iran from escalating its support for terrorism, militancy, and human rights abuses in the Middle East and beyond," said Kirk, who is sponsoring the resolution in the Senate with Sens. Joe Manchin (D., W. Va.) and Marco Rubio (R., Fla.).

A companion version of the measure was concurrently introduced in the House by Reps. Peter Roskam (R., Ill.), Ted Deutch (D., Fla.), Dan Lipinski (D., Ill.), Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.), Brad Sherman (D.,Calif.), and Lee Zeldin (R., N.Y.).

Multiple governors have pledged to continue enacting sanctions on Iran. Most of these state-level laws promote divestment from Iran and bar companies that work with the country from cashing in on lucrative state contracts.

"These measures have resulted in billions of dollars being pulled out of international corporations that do business in Iran," according to the advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran, which has promoted state-level divestment legislation. "These companies and their investors that deal with Iran directly support a dangerous regime."

The organization also has provided a legislative template to states seeking to implement sanctions on Iran.

Iranian-backed militants are responsible for killing at least 700 Americans in the decades since the Iranian Revolution, according to the legislation. The Islamic Republic also continues to fund multiple terror organizations, including Hamas and Hezbollah, providing the groups with hundreds of millions annually, according to congressional sources.

Experts and analysts have expressed concern that the money and resources provided via sanctions relief will embolden Iran and enable it to spend even more money on its illicit activities.

Iran has imprisoned at least four American citizens and has refused to release them following the nuclear deal.

Adam Kredo   Email Adam | Full Bio | RSS
Adam Kredo is senior writer reporting on national security and foreign policy matters for the Washington Free Beacon. An award-winning political reporter who has broken news from across the globe, Kredo’s work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, Commentary Magazine, the Drudge Report, and the Jerusalem Post, among many others. His Twitter handle is @Kredo0. His email address is

Get the news that matters most to you, delivered straight to your inbox daily.

Register today!
  • Grow your email list exponentially
  • Dramatically increase your conversion rates
  • Engage more with your audience
  • Boost your current and future profits