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Corker: Obama Administration Commitments on Iran Not Squaring with Reality

Senator Emphasizes Need for New Sanctions Authority to Pushback against Iran’s Repeated Ballistic Missile Violations and Other Illicit Behavior

WASHINGTON – During a hearing to assess Iran’s hostile and illicit behavior since the nuclear deal took effect in January, U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, disputed previous Obama administration commitments claiming certain restrictions on Iran would remain in place. Today the committee heard testimony from Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas A. Shannon, Jr.

“I think all of us have been – and remain – skeptical of Iran,” said Corker, who opposed the nuclear agreement. “There is also bipartisan frustration with the perception that previous commitments made by the administration are not squaring with reality.”

Diplomats cited in recent reports suggest that Iran’s repeated ballistic missile tests do not technically violate provisions of U.N. Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2231, which was adopted last July to enforce the Iran nuclear agreement. UNSCR 2231 states that Iran is “called upon” not to engage in ballistic missile activities for up to eight years, a lower bar than previous resolutions demanding that Iran “shall not” engage in such actions. Secretary of State John Kerry testified in July of 2015 that “the exact same language in the (previous) embargo is in the agreement with respect to launches.” U.S. Ambassador Stephen Mull, the lead coordinator for U.S. implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), later confirmed that launches would still be considered a violation of the new UNSCR when he testified in December.

“Yet inaction at the (U.N.) Security Council in response to Iran’s continued ballistic missile provocations clearly shows [Kerry and Mull] were incorrect,” Corker added.

Following up on recent reports that the U.S. Department of the Treasury might lift a prohibition on Iranian financial transactions involving the U.S. dollar, Corker asked Under Secretary Shannon to clarify conflicting statements from Obama administration officials about possible steps to accommodate Iran’s desire for further relief from U.S. sanctions beyond what was agreed to in the JCPOA.

“There is lots of speculation that Iran will soon get some type of access to transactions involving the U.S. dollar – we would like to get your assurance that the dollar is not in the cards for Iran,” said Corker.

Under Secretary Shannon denied the U.S. would facilitate such transactions and further stated that the proposed sale of Russian SU-30 aircraft to Iran would violate the existing arms embargo contained in UNSCR 2231. Shannon refused to say whether Iran’s ballistic missile tests “violate” UNSC 2231, noting the “called upon” language in the UNSCR 2231 might not justify such a definitive charge.

Corker reiterated his view that new sanctions authority provided by Congress is necessary to address the continued threat from Iran’s ballistic missile activities and prospective sales of illicit weaponry to Iran.

“[T]here is bipartisan support for new sanctions authority in response to Iran’s repeated ballistic missile launches,” said Corker. “Previous assurances, including some by the president, clearly stated that we reserved the right to take new steps should we need to push back harder against Iran’s non-nuclear behavior. I think the repeated ballistic missile launches and desire to purchase all types of weapons from Russia prove that an increased push back is necessary.”