GOP House members float bill to sanction Iran for non-nuclear activity
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GOP House members float bill to sanction Iran for non-nuclear activity

Measure would penalize the Islamic Republic for missile tests, supporting international terrorism, abusing human rights

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-NY, takes the oath of office during a mock swearing in ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-NY, takes the oath of office during a mock swearing in ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

WASHINGTON — As the Trump administration warned that Iran is “formally on notice” for its recent testing of ballistic missiles, Republican House members on Thursday introduced legislation to sanction Tehran for its non-nuclear provocations.

New York Rep. Lee Zeldin (R), Illinois Rep. Peter Roskam (R), New Jersey Rep. Leonard Lance (R) and Colorado Rep. Doug Lamborn (R) presented the Iran Non-Nuclear Sanctions Act of 2017 on Thursday, a measure that would impose sanctions against Tehran for supporting international terrorism, abusing human rights and testing ballistic missiles, which Iran is already barred from doing under UN Security Council Resolution 2231.

The bill comes just over a week after GOP senators re-introduced legislation that seeks to sanction the Islamic Republic for its non-nuclear activities and a day after the White House alerted Iranian leaders that their behavior could elicit a robust American response.

On Thursday morning, President Donald Trump tweeted that Iran “has been formally PUT ON NOTICE for firing a ballistic missile. Should have been thankful for the terrible deal the US made with them!” — echoing similar comments by National Security Advisor Michael Flynn made the day before.

“We wanted to be very clear that we felt their actions were both provocative and in violation,” Press Secretary Sean Spicer said on Wednesday, “and making sure that they understood that we weren’t going to sit by and not act on those actions.”

US President Donald Trump in the White House February 2, 2017 in Washington, DC. (AFP/ Brendan Smialowski)
US President Donald Trump in the White House February 2, 2017 in Washington, DC. (AFP/Brendan Smialowski)

Trump also said on Thursday that “nothing is off the table” when it comes to responding to Iran, using a phrase Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has often used vis-à-vis Tehran’s quest for nuclear power for years.

Netanyahu on Monday demanded the reimposition of sanctions against Iran, terming the test a “flagrant breach” of UN Security Council resolutions, and said he would discuss with Trump a reevaluation of the “entire failed nuclear accord” during their February 15 meeting in Washington.

Beyond expanding sanctions of Iran’s behavior, the House bill, if passed and enacted, would create a Treasury Department watchlist for entities in which the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has an ownership interest of less than 25%, and provide authorization for companies to divest in entities that invest in the IRGC or IRGC-owned companies.

“The United States and its allies must hold Iran accountable for its behavior and address all of the Iranians’ other very destabilizing activities,” said Zeldin, one of two Jewish Republican members of Congress, in a statement.

Iranian Soumar cruise missiles on display at their unveiling in March 2016. (YouTube screenshot)
Iranian Soumar cruise missiles on display at their unveiling in March 2016. (YouTube screenshot)

House Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday said he would support the imposition of additional sanctions on Iran.

“I would be in favor of additional sanctions on Iran,” Ryan said at a weekly press conference. “We need to have a tough-on-Iran policy…We should stop appeasing Iran.”

Also on Thursday, the Reuters news agency reported the Trump administration was planning to sanction multiple Iranian entities following Tehran’s latest missile test. An unnamed official said the penalty would be applied in a way that does not violate the 2015 nuclear accord the US struck with Iran and P5+1 world powers.

On January 29, Iran is said to have tested a 4,000-kilometer (2,500-mile) ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. On Thursday, the German newspaper Die Welt reported that Iran also tested a home-made cruise missile with the same capabilities: the Soumar, with a range of up to 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles), flew 600 kilometers (373 miles) on its maiden voyage, according to the German report.

The missiles are not covered by UN Resolution 2231, which was passed shortly after the nuclear deal with Iran was signed in July 2015 and calls on Tehran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”

Iran argues that its ballistic missile program is also not covered by the resolution because it does not have a nuclear weapons program.

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