Senate Democrats Open to New Sanctions on Iran After Latest Missile Test

Top Democratic lawmakers are calling for strong action in response to Iranian ballistic missile activity after Tehran conducted another test-fire over the weekend, its first since the inauguration of President Donald Trump, according to statements provided to THE WEEKLY STANDARD.

The declarations come as legislation that would impose new sanctions on Tehran for non-nuclear activities, including ballistic missile development, winds its way through Congress.

Democratic lawmakers on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee told TWS Monday that Iran’s repeated launches violate United Nations resolutions that call on the country not to conduct such activities, and that the United States must push back against Iran in their aftermath.

“We should be forceful in countering that type of violation of international norms,” said Maryland senator Ben Cardin, the ranking member on the committee, who opposed the Iran deal. “Obviously they have violated the ballistic missile prohibitions. The United States has sanctions. The international community has sanctions. It’s violating U.N. resolutions.”

Delaware senator Chris Coons, who supported the deal, also told TWS the tests were a violation of U.N. resolutions and urged consideration of additional action against Iran.

“This is something we have to take very seriously and look at closely, and consider imposing additional sanctions in response to it,” Coons said. “That Iran continues to engage in a ballistic missile program and tests in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, and in violation of our sanctions against that program, shows that they … continue to be a belligerent and dangerous country.”

“I view this as a grave threat to our vital ally Israel, and to our troops in the region, and if they continue along the path of developing better and better ballistic missiles, it’s ultimately a threat to Europe and the rest of the world,” he added.

New Jersey senator Bob Menendez told TWS the launches were violations and required a response beyond the landmark 2015 nuclear accord.

“It is a continuing set of violations that they feel emboldened to do because we in the world are not pushing back on them,” he said. “It’s one of the reasons that I have sought a series of sanctions beyond the nuclear accord.”

Connecticut senator Chris Murphy, a supporter of the Iran nuclear deal, also said during an event at the Atlantic Council Monday that he is open to considering fresh sanctions against Iran if the launches are confirmed.

“I have to be open to conversations about new sanctions,” he said. “If it is true that they did another ballistic missile test today, well then, they know exactly what conversation is coming from this Congress, and they shouldn’t be surprised.”

Officials from the Obama administration told Congress during the debate over the deal that Iranian ballistic missile launches would violate U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, the resolution affirming the nuclear deal. After Congress did not reject the deal and Iran resumed testing ballistic missiles, the Obama administration hesitated to call such launches violations, instead describing them as “inconsistent with” UNSCR 2231.

That shift sparked calls on Capitol Hill for an investigation into whether Congress had been deliberately misled during debate over the deal.

Experts told TWS that Obama officials had downplayed the Iranian launches to avoid endangering the nuclear agreement.

“The previous administration’s lack of resolve on missiles was a byproduct of their desire not to rock the boat with Iran and keep the deal insulated,” said Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior Iran analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “Iran has used that time to make advances in the accuracy of some of the short and medium range platforms in its arsenal.”

U.S. officials confirmed Iran’s lat est test-fire to reporters Monday.

Republican senators introduced legislation in recent weeks cracking down on Iran’s ballistic missile activities and human rights violations. Florida senator Marco Rubio, a co-sponsor of the Iran Non-Nuclear Sanctions Act, urged Congress and the Trump administration to accelerate consideration of the legislation.

“Iran has launched yet another ballistic missile test in violation of international norms, threatening American forces in the Middle East, Israel and our other allies in the region,” he told TWS. “If Iran insists on threatening us with missiles, sponsoring terrorism, harassing our service members, and violating human rights with impunity, we must respond.”

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a leading pro-Israel lobby, told TWS the launches were violations that should trigger penalties.

“We are very concerned about the report of another Iranian ballistic missile test,” a spokesman for the organization said. “Iran is flagrantly violating its international obligations, and should face harsh penalties for its actions.”

This post originally appeared on Weekly Standard

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