September 12, 2018 / 9:18 PM / a month ago

U.S. Republicans seek sanctions on Iraqi militias with Iran ties

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican U.S. senators plan to introduce legislation on Wednesday seeking to counteract what they see as Iran’s increasing influence in Iraq, amid concern about attacks in Iraq by groups U.S. officials consider Iranian proxies, a Senate aide said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Senator David Perdue (R-GA), arrives for a meeting with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower in New York, U.S., December 2, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Among other things, the bill, whose text was seen by Reuters, would impose terrorism-related sanctions on Iranian-controlled militias and require the U.S. Secretary of State to publish and maintain a list of armed groups receiving assistance from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC.

FILE PHOTO: Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) listens as Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies during the second day of his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 5, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Sponsors of the “Iranian Proxies Terrorist Sanctions Act” include Senators David Perdue, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. A similar bill, backed by Republican Representative Ted Poe, has been introduced in the House of Representatives.

There was no immediate word on when the legislation might be considered by congressional committees, normally the first steps towards becoming law.

Three mortar shells landed inside Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone just after midnight local time on Friday, the first such attack in several years in the area, which houses parliament, government buildings and many foreign embassies.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) asks a question of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during Pompeo's appearance before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing titled "An Update on American Diplomacy to Advance Our National Security Strategy" on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 25, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

On Tuesday, the United States warned Iran that it would “respond swiftly and decisively” to any attacks by its allies in Iraq that resulted in injury to Americans or damage to U.S. facilities.

Reuters reported last month that Iran had given ballistic missiles to Shi’ite Muslim proxy groups in Iraq and was developing the capacity to build more there, a development likely to exacerbate tensions between Tehran and Washington, already heightened by President Donald Trump.

In May, Trump withdrew the United States from a 2015 international nuclear accord with Iran and ordered the reimposition of U.S. sanctions suspended under the deal aimed at stalling Tehran’s nuclear capabilities.

Iran’s Sunni Muslim Gulf neighbours and its arch-enemy Israel have expressed concerns about Tehran’s regional activities as a threat to their security.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Grant McCool

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