The Cable

GOP Calls for New Sanctions After Iran Missile Tests

Republican lawmakers reacted angrily Tuesday to Iran’s test-firing of several ballistic missiles and called on the Obama administration to step up sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

TEHRAN, IRAN - FEBRUARY 11: Iranians walk past the Simorgh (Phoenix) satellite rocket during celebrations to mark the 37th anniversary of the Islamic revolution in Azadi Square (Freedom Square) on February 11, 2016 in Tehran, Iran. Rallies and celebrations are being held across the country. President Hassan Rouhani has urged the public to turn out for the upcoming parliamentary and Constitutional Council elections. (Photo by Majid Saeedi/Getty Images)
TEHRAN, IRAN - FEBRUARY 11: Iranians walk past the Simorgh (Phoenix) satellite rocket during celebrations to mark the 37th anniversary of the Islamic revolution in Azadi Square (Freedom Square) on February 11, 2016 in Tehran, Iran. Rallies and celebrations are being held across the country. President Hassan Rouhani has urged the public to turn out for the upcoming parliamentary and Constitutional Council elections. (Photo by Majid Saeedi/Getty Images)

Republican lawmakers demanded stepped-up sanctions against Iran on Tuesday after the Islamic Republic test-fired several ballistic missiles.

The launches, carried out by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps from various silos around the country, came two months after the White House sanctioned businesses and people with ties to Tehran’s missile program, measures that Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) on Tuesday called “pathetic and weak.”

The U.S. should “up our game and impose real, tough sanctions on Iran on their ballistic missile program,” Ayotte said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

Meanwhile, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker said Washington should target “suppliers and enablers” of Iran’s ballistic missile program to prove the U.S. will continue to enforce the nuclear deal that Iran agreed to with world powers last year.

“Iran’s complete disregard for the ballistic missile restrictions that remain in place must be met with swift and immediate consequences from the U.S. and the U.N. Security Council,” Corker said.

State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said the U.S. will raise the issue at the U.N. Security Council if Iran’s missile launches are confirmed. “We will also encourage a serious review of the incident and press for an appropriate response,” he said in a statement to Foreign Policy.

He said the tests do not violate the Iran nuclear deal, but rather other U.N. resolutions barring Tehran from working on ballistic missiles capable of carrying a nuclear bomb.

“This development underscores why we continue to work closely with partners around the world to slow and degrade Iran’s missile program,” he said.

The crucial element of last summer’s nuclear deal with Iran, said U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Lloyd Austin, is the limits it places on Tehran’s nuclear program. However, he acknowledged during the Senate Armed Forces hearing, the deal has yet to reduce Iran’s work on ballistic missiles.

“They haven’t changed any course yet,” he said.

In announcing its launch of short-, medium- and long-range precision guided missiles, Iranian state media said the tests show the country’s “all-out readiness to confront threats” against the Islamic Republic. Media reports also claimed the missiles boasted ranges of 300, 500, 800, and 2,000 kilometers.  

In a televised address, Maj. Gen. Ali Jafar, the IRGC’s top commander, and Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh said Iran would not be intimidated by U.S. attempts to weaken the Islamic Republic.

“Our main enemies, the Americans, who mutter about plans, have activated new missile sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran and are seeking to weaken the country’s missile capability,” Hajizadeh said. “The Guards and other armed forces are defenders of the revolution and the country will not pay a toll to anyone … and will stand against their excessive demands.”

It’s unclear if Iran’s national elections two weeks ago, which delivered wins for politicians aligned with the country’s moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, prompted the tests. The launches, part of an exercise named “The Power of Velayat,” were carried out by the IRGC and its aerospace wing. They could be a demonstration by the Guards asserting their relevance, despite warming diplomatic relations between Iran and the U.S. following the nuclear deal.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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