Senate Passes Cantwell Measure to Expose Illegal Iranian Oil Sales

Provision would direct President to name companies that violate U.S. sanctions and sell petroleum to Iran

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Senate voted to pass a provision by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) to publically expose companies that violate U.S. sanctions by selling oil and petroleum to Iran. Cantwell’s provision was included as Section 218 of the Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Human Rights Act of 2012, which passed the Senate today unanimously.

This landmark legislation would further tighten sanctions against Iran and comes just days before international negotiations begin in an effort to end Iranian attempts to develop nuclear weapons. The Senate measure now goes to conference with a similar measure in the U.S. House.

“Penalties should apply to all companies that violate U.S. sanctions by illegally trading petroleum with Iran,” Cantwell said. “Exposing sanction violators will help constrict funding for Iran’s illicit nuclear weapon development program. This provision will also help determine whether the existing sanctions regime is adequately targeted or even effective.”

Cantwell’s measure, which cleared the Senate Banking Committee unanimously last February, requires the President to produce a report to Congress every 180 days that describes the movements of both crude oil and refined petroleum products to and from Iran. The President’s report would also expose foreign persons involved in efforts to assist Iran in: developing upstream oil and gas production capacity; upgrading Iran’s refineries; converting chemical plants to petroleum refineries; or constructing new refineries. Cantwell’s measure would also close an existing loophole in U.S. sanctions by requiring the identities of companies engaging in financial schemes known as “swaps” with the Iranian regime be made public.

Many experts believe that Iran continues its aggressive pursuit of nuclear weapons and remains a threat to global security. Economic sanctions, such as those of existing U.S. laws like the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions and Divestment Act (CISADA), have been effective in restricting revenue flows and pressuring Iran to give up its nuclear weapons program. The threat alone of strong U.S. sanctions has led many of the world’s leading energy companies to cut ties with Iran. There is considerable concern that some companies flout sanctions by continuing to trade petroleum products with Iran – boosting the regime and their own profits with sales in a market with little competition from law-abiding companies. However, nobody knows the extent to which this occurs, because the information is not available to policy makers or the public.

Cantwell’s provision was adapted from Senate Bill 2058, a bipartisan measure she introduced with Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) on February 1, 2012 with the following original cosponsors: Dean Heller (R-NV), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Rob Portman (R-OH), John Barrasso (R-WY), John Cornyn (R-TX), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), David Vitter (R-LA), James Risch (R-ID), John Hoeven (R-ND), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Mark Begich (D-AK), Richard Lugar (R-IN), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Mike Crapo (R-ID).                                                   

In July 2011, during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Cantwell spoke in support of a very similar provision she offered to S.916. That legislation was approved unanimously by the Energy Committee, but has yet to be considered by the full Senate.