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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 26, May 1998

Senate OKs Iran Sanctions as Russia Adopts New Controls

On 22 May, the US Senate passed, by 90 votes to 4, legislation requiring the Clinton Administration to impose sanctions on States or companies suspected of assisting Iran's missile development programme. The legislation is openly declared by its advocates to be directed at Russian companies: it stipulates that sanctions should be imposed response to assistance rendered to Iran after 22 January 1998, the date Russia introduced new, stricter export control rules (similar legislation adopted by voice-vote in the House of Representatives in November last year stipulated a starting-date for considering transgressions of 8 August 1995, the date Russia acceded to the Missile Technology Control Regime). According to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, speaking after the vote: "Iran's missile program has been advanced tremendously by assistance from a wide range of Russian entities. ... It is time for the Senate to deliver a clear message. I think it will helpful in getting this process that Russia and others have been participating in stopped now before it is too late."

The Administration is implacably opposed to the new legislation, and the President is considered likely to veto it. Two days before the vote, senior State Department official Stephen Sestanovich told the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on European Affairs: "We believe this legislation would be counterproductive to the very goal of stopping the transfer of missile-related technology to Iran... Our goal is a Russian export regime that is rigorous and meets Western standards. The actions the Russian Government has taken put it firmly on the right track..." Sestanovich was presumably referring in part to discussions on the issue between Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin on 17 May at the G8 Summit in Britain, as well as a further tightening of Russian export controls announced on 14 May by chief Kremlin spokesperson Sergei Yastrzhembsky, who noted: "The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, production technologies and delivery systems, especially in countries bordering Russia and neighbouring areas, are seen as a serious threat to Russia's security." Yastrzhembsky was quoted as making similar references to stricter controls on 5 May: no details were given in reports.

Reports: Russia toughens on illegal exports, Associated Press, 5 May; Russia tightens nuclear export control, United Press International, 14 May; Yeltsin, Clinton discuss Iran sales, Associated Press, 18 May; US Congress urged to wait on Russia-Iran sanctions, Reuters, 20 May; Senate clear Iran sanctions, veto threatened, Reuters, 22 May; Senate calls for Iran-Russia sanctions, United Press International, 22 May; Senate votes sanctions on Russia, Associated Press, 22 May.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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