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Corker: Iranian Elections Are Steering U.S. Policy on Tehran

A top Republican senator on Thursday said the Obama administration is failing to respond to Iran’s ballistic missile violations out of concern for the impact U.S. actions might have on the Islamic Republic’s parliamentary elections next year.

US Republican Senator from Tennessee Bob Corker, chairman of  the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, listens to a speaker during a hearing on the Iran nuclear deal on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on December 17, 2015.   AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM        (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
US Republican Senator from Tennessee Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, listens to a speaker during a hearing on the Iran nuclear deal on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on December 17, 2015. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
US Republican Senator from Tennessee Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, listens to a speaker during a hearing on the Iran nuclear deal on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on December 17, 2015. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

A top Republican senator on Thursday said the Obama administration is failing to respond to Iran’s ballistic missile violations out of concern for the impact U.S. actions might have on the Islamic Republic’s parliamentary elections next year.

"I'm getting the strong sense that the reason we're doing nothing ... is because we're trying to affect the internal elections that will take place this spring," said Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker. "And that is just not in keeping with the intentions of this agreement.”

Corker and other Republicans on the committee called on the Obama administration to impose additional sanctions on Iran, following a report by the U.N. Security Council’s Panel of Experts that concluded Iran violated a U.N. Security Council resolution in October by testing a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

A top Republican senator on Thursday said the Obama administration is failing to respond to Iran’s ballistic missile violations out of concern for the impact U.S. actions might have on the Islamic Republic’s parliamentary elections next year.

“I’m getting the strong sense that the reason we’re doing nothing … is because we’re trying to affect the internal elections that will take place this spring,” said Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker. “And that is just not in keeping with the intentions of this agreement.”

Corker and other Republicans on the committee called on the Obama administration to impose additional sanctions on Iran, following a report by the U.N. Security Council’s Panel of Experts that concluded Iran violated a U.N. Security Council resolution in October by testing a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

The State Department’s pointman on Iran, Stephen Mull, said the Obama administration was considering additional punitive actions against Iran, but did not describe those steps in detail Thursday.

Thomas Countryman, assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, said the U.S. uses sanctions and strategic trade controls to curb Iran’s access to ballistic missile technology. He said those controls “allow us to interrupt, delay and impede in every way possible the transfer of such technology.”

“We cannot entirely stop that trade, but we believe our efforts … have made the uranium missile program less productive, less accurate, and less of a threat to our friends in the region,” he said.

Neither State Department official responded to Corker’s claim that the U.S. was going easy on Iran to bolster the electoral prospects of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate.

This spring, Iran will hold elections for parliament and the assembly that will select Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s successor.

Rouhani, touting his successful July pursuit of a nuclear deal with world powers, hopes to gain control of a majority of the legislature. He faces stiff resistance from hardliners in the Islamic Republic, who remain bitterly opposed to the deal.

Ahead of the elections, Rouhani is trying to bring Iran in compliance with the nuclear accord to trigger the lifting of a global sanctions regime that decimated his country’s economy. But Iran’s testing of mid-range ballistic missiles has angered U.S. lawmakers, including hawkish Democrats.

On Thursday, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) criticized the Obama administration for not clamping down harder against the regime. “I have a very clear sense, and I hope I’m wrong, that what we have here is a permissive environment,” he said.

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