Second-Ranking House Democrat: Enforcement of Iran Deal Hurt by U.S. Inaction on Missile Tests

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D – Md.), the Democratic whip of the House of Representatives, expressed disappointment with the Obama administration for indefinitely delaying punitive sanctions on Iran over its illicit ballistic missile program, arguing that failure to act will erode the United States’ ability to enforce the nuclear deal with Tehran, in a statement released on Saturday.

“I am disappointed that the Administration has delayed punitive action in response to Iran’s recent ballistic missile tests. We are always in a sensitive moment in our dealings with Iran, and there is never a perfect time to undertake such actions. But Iran must know with certainty that violating U.N. Security Council resolutions, both inside and outside the scope of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), will be met with serious consequences. Under that agreement, Iran’s non-nuclear violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions will merit punitive action, and I will continue to press for decisive action by the United States and our international partners. Otherwise, we will have a serious problem with our credibility in enforcing the JCPOA.

“The recent missile tests, along with the firing in proximity to a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf, raise serious concerns about whether Iran will adhere to the remainder of its commitments under the JCPOA. These recent violations underscore Iran’s readiness to test the will of the international community, instigated by its hardline elements that want to scuttle the deal. That challenge must be met with a decisive response.

Hoyer noted that Iran still had to take further steps before receiving sanctions relief according to the terms of the nuclear deal, and cautioned that “given Iran’s history, the Administration and our P5+1 partners must continue to enforce Iran’s obligations under the JCPOA with appropriate vigilance and zeal.”

Last week, after preparing to impose sanctions on a dozen companies and individuals for supporting Iran’s ballistic missile program, the administration delayed the sanctions indefinitely in reaction to Iranian pressure. Last month, a United Nations panel found that an Iranian ballistic missile test in October had violated a U.N. Security Council resolution.

Following that launch, 11 Democratic senators sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry expressing their concern over the ballistic missile test, writing:

We strongly believe that the ability of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) to prevent Iran from fulfilling its nuclear ambitions must be fortified by a zero-tolerance policy to respond to violations of the agreement and of applicable UN resolutions – and a unified plan of action between the United States and our European allies about what specific responses should be deployed to respond to incremental violations.

There must be no ambiguity in our willingness to enforce Iran’s obligations under UN resolutions and the JCPOA.

In November, Hoyer blasted Iran’s decision to stop dismantling centrifuges as required by the nuclear deal, saying, “The P5+1 and the United Nations Security Council must put in place the strictest enforcement regime possible. Iran’s leaders must know with certainty that they cannot get away with shirking any of their obligations to dismantle key components of their country’s nuclear program. Iran’s government must decide whether to adhere to its international commitments or continue to be a pariah state by giving in to conservatives and the hardliners in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps who call for Israel’s destruction and encourage the support of terrorist organizations abroad.”

[Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / Flickr ]