October 28, 2015

Corker Presses State Department on U.S. Sanctions Against Iran for Violation of UN Ballistic Missile Test Ban

Questions Likelihood of Political Settlement in Syria as Long as Russia Supports Assad

WASHINGTON – During the fourth in a series of hearings on the U.S. role and strategy in the Middle East, U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, pressed the U.S. Department of State to pursue unilateral sanctions against Iran if the United Nation’s Security Council cannot agree to hold Tehran accountable for violating the U.N. ban on ballistic missile testing earlier this month. The committee heard testimony today from Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Anne Patterson and U.S. Special Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL Gen. John Allen.

“Knowing that…there won’t be penalties put against Iran because Russia will block them, we want to know unilaterally what the United States is going to do because we know functionally nothing is going to happen at the U.N.,” said Corker, who wrote a letter earlier this month to Secretary of State John Kerry seeking clarity on the U.S. response to the Iranian violation.

Today’s hearing focused on evaluating overall U.S. involvement in the Middle East and what is driving regional perceptions of U.S. disengagement.

In questioning of Gen. Allen about Russian military action in Syria, Senator Corker expressed doubts about the likelihood of a political settlement of the conflict as long as Russia is determined to support the Assad regime, including the targeting of moderate opposition groups that are backed by the United States.

“The facts on the ground are that Russia is killing our friends. And you don’t see them moving away from killing our friends to focusing like we are on ISIS,” said Corker.

Gen. Allen agreed that Russia is not likely to focus solely on ISIS because its objective is to keep Assad in power.

“At this juncture we haven’t seen and we won’t, I think, see a large-scale Russian investment in going after ISIL because [Russia] has to do what it came there to do, which is to prevent the collapse of the Assad regime,” said Allen. “While we had an expectation that we would partner to deal with Daesh, that the Russians would play a role in the reduction of violence and the reduction of the conflict and then play a role constructively with us in creating a political transition, we haven’t seen any of that.”

For archived footage and full testimony, click here.