Rep. Engel: I expect tough new Iran sanctions to become law
A day after the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed tough new economic sanctions on Iran, the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said he believes the Senate will also vote in favor of the bill.
Representative Eliot Engel (D.-NY) said the Senate is likely to move forward on the measure this November, and the president is likely to sign the bill into law.
(Read More: House takes serious aim at Iran's energy sector)
Engel's statement comes just three days before Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, officially takes office. The New York Times reported last week that Iran has approached Iraq to notify the United States that it is willing to start new talks over its nuclear program.
No further talks are scheduled so far. There are fears in countries that oppose Iran's nuclear program that the Islamic Republic plans to negotiate only in order to buy time for its growing nuclear program.
Earlier this week, the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington-based think tank founded by former United Nations nuclear agency inspector David Albright, forecast Iran will be able to produce an atomic bomb by the middle of 2014. However, other analysts question whether Iran has mastered the technology needed for a delivery system—namely, a missile that would carry a nuclear warhead.
Engel said that he believes Iran has made enough progress to soon become a threat to the United States.
"Iran would have the ability to hit the United States in a year or two if they were allowed to have a nuclear weapon," he said.
Iran has an active space program and has surprised many military analysts by proving it can successfully launch satellites into orbit. Similar technology is used in intercontinental ballistic missiles.
"These are the toughest sanctions ever" Engel said of the bill that just passed the House, "but if they don't work, I think the president has made it clear that all options are on the table because Iran must not be allowed to have a nuclear weapon. President Obama has old me personally and told many other people that under his watch, he will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon."
The bill that is now moving to the Senate is designed to cut Iran's oil exports down to almost nothing by the end of 2014. Several countries are currently exempt from existing U.S. sanctions imposed on nations that import Iranian oil, including China, India, South Korea, Japan and Turkey. The House bill would greatly tighten those exemptions.
The current sanctions bill also makes it difficult if not impossible for companies doing business with Iran to do business with American companies as well.
—By CNBC's Jason Gewirtz