American allies join adversaries in criticizing U.S. sanctions bills

Reporting by Rich Edson

American allies are joining U.S. adversaries in criticizing sanctions bills the House and Senate have passed targeting Iran, North Korea and Russia.

The sanctions towards Russia target its oil and gas sector. European companies conduct business with Russian firms and these sanctions could expose them to penalties. The European Union is considering retaliating against the U.S.

Statement from the French Foreign Ministry:

“…the extraterritorial scope of this text appears to be unlawful under international law.”

The German government demands the U.S. coordinate with its European allies with German Foreign Office Spokesman Martin Schaeffer saying, “The United States does not have the right to sit in judgement on European companies, and to tell them how to do business with a third country, in this case with Russian energy providers, on a contractual or other level.”

The bills also limit the president’s authority to ease sanctions against Russians and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has argued that limits his flexibility in negotiating with the Russian Government.

The White House remains noncommittal on the bills the House and Senate have already passed.

There’s a possibility that more changes take place and so we’re going to see what that looks like before we make a final decision,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “The President and the entire administration as we’ve said many times before strongly support sanctions against Russia, Iran, and North Korea.”

The U.S. is relying more on sanctions to address adversaries’ aggressive behavior, as two senior U.S. officials say the intelligence community believes North Korea continues its ballistic missile program and Iran is poised to launch another rocket.

Congress is still considering these sanctions and the House passed a version this week that is different from the bill the Senate approved. Congressional leaders, with wide support in both parties, will have to work out those differences before sending a bill to the White House.