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Politico, June 15, 2017: Senate votes to impose new sanctions on Russia and Iran
By a 97-2 vote, the Senate imposed new sanctions on both Russia and Iran. The Russian sanctions part of the bill punishes Russia for violation of Ukraine's territorial integrity, cyberattacks and interference in the 2016 US elections. It converts existing sanctions into law, making it more difficult for Trump to act unilaterally to remove sanctions. This includes preventing Trump from returning two Russian diplomatic compounds seized in December by the Obama administration as punishment for alleged electoral disruption.
The Iran sanctions impose new restrictions on Tehran's ballistic missile program to punish Iran for supporting terrorism and human rights violations.
Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul were the two no votes.
The legislation still needs to pass the House and be signed by Trump.
Rand Paul explained his no vote: "I'm really not in favor of new sanctions against Russia now or new sanctions on Iran....Everything we say Russia's done wrong. So China does", citing examples of cyber-espionage, suppressing freedom of speech and human rights violations.
Bernie Sanders explained his no vote in a statement after the vote that while he fully supported penalties against the Kremlin for its efforts to meddle in the 2016 election, the Iran sanctions could have dangerous consequences.
"That is not a risk worth taking, particularly at a time of heightened tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia and its allies," Sanders said in a statement. "I think the United States should play a more even-handed role in the Middle East and find ways not only to address Iran's activities, but also Saudi Arabia's decades-long support for radical extremism."
I personally agree with Sanders with respect to his view on the Iran sanctions. The Iran nuclear deal is important, and he makes a good point about Saudi Arabia's radical extremism. The two parts of the sanctions bill should have been put to separate votes.
On the Russian sanctions, Rand Paul also raises an interesting point. Is the US government consistent and fair in the way we seem to impose sanctions on some countries and not others? I'm not saying I'm opposed to the sanctions, particularly because it ties Trump's hands to act unilaterally on removing sanctions in whole or part.
However, I do wonder about the effectiveness of these sanctions. Is Putin or the Iranian theocracy going to change their ways because of these sanctions? Or will the citizens suffer more while the rulers dig in?
Just a few thoughts for discussion for those who would like to engage in critical thinking...