Iran could face tightened sanctions within months after a US congressional panel Wednesday adopted a measure targeting the nation's auto and mining industries as well as its foreign currency reserves.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously passed the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act, which would extend existing sanctions to the auto and mining sectors and allow the US president to subject other Iranian industries, such as engineering, to similar restrictions.
Today's US sanctions focus on Iran's finance and energy sectors, notably its oil exports. Six countries and territories -- China, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey -- still import Iranian oil, but they have reduced their imports since 2012, with Washington granting them exemptions.
The measure would also close a loophole in sanctions which the European Union imposed on Iran's foreign currency reserves by punishing any institution that serves as an intermediary in facilitating currency conversions for Tehran.
"Today's bipartisan passage of the strongest-ever sanctions leveled at Iran's nuclear weapons program should send a loud and clear message to Tehran: give up your nuclear weapons program now, or face uncompromising pressure from the United States Congress," said top committee Democrat Eliot Engel.
The currency penalty could land a severe financial blow against Iran, which holds an estimated $30 billion in reserves outside of Europe, mostly in euros, according to Mark Dubowitz, head of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
The bill is likely to be adopted by the full House, then considered by the Senate in the next few months.