Republican senators introduce bill punishing Iran missile violations

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Republican senators on March 17 introduced legislation aimed at requiring the Obama administration to impose stricter sanctions on Iran for continuous defiance of international sanctions on its ballistic missile program.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, is the GOP’s response to what it says has been President Barack Obama’s failure to issue any meaningful punishment for Iran’s repeated violations of the UN’s ballistic missile test ban.

Iran launches missile from undisclosed location. /Reuters
Iran launches missile from undisclosed location. /Reuters

Ayotte and other Republicans said senior U.S. military officials, including Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, are in favor of tougher sanctions.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) test-fired two ballistic missiles on March 9 which U.S. officials said were in defiance of a U.N. resolution which prohibits Teheran from launching any ballistic missiles capable of delivering a nuclear weapon. Iran carried out two such launches in late 2015.

“Tough words alone will not deter the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism from continuing to develop its ballistic missile program,” Ayotte said.

The legislation requires Obama to issue sanctions on entire sectors of Iran’s economy found to be directly or indirectly supporting the Islamic republic’s missile program.

GOP Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Mark Kirk of Illinois also are backing the bill.

Meanwhile, Russia, which has Security Council veto power, says Iran has not violated the resolution. Russia opposes new UN sanctions, but acknowledged that if the missiles were proven capable of carrying a nuclear weapon, it could be suggested Teheran has not been “respectful” of the Council.

“A call is different from a ban, so legally you cannot violate a call, you can comply with a call or you can ignore the call, but you cannot violate a call,” Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said on March 14. “The legal distinction is there.”

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