WASHINGTON - The House voted yesterday to impose new economic sanctions on Iran as lawmakers cast doubt on Iran's willingness to respond to diplomatic efforts to curtail its purported nuclear-arms program.
The legislation, approved, 412-12, would end access to U.S. markets for foreign companies selling refined petroleum products to Iran or helping Iran develop its petroleum capacity. While Iran is a major crude oil producer, its inability to produce enough gasoline and other refined petroleum products is a major economic vulnerability.
All Philadelphia-area representatives voted in favor of the sanctions.
With no Senate action on the legislation expected this year, the House vote was for now mainly a warning that the United States is ready to act on its own if the Tehran government doesn't respond to international efforts to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.
The bill drew opposition from lawmakers who said it would mainly cause hardship among poor and middle-class Iranians.
Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, in a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, said the Obama administration was "entering a critical period of intense diplomacy to impose significant international pressure on Iran." Sanctions legislation "might weaken rather than strengthen international unity and support for our efforts," Steinberg's letter said.