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Leading lawmakers are lashing out at Iran for violating the recently approved nuclear deal by conducting a series of ballistic missile tests that some say could be used to perfect nuclear weapons technology.
Iran this week reportedly conducted its second test of a ballistic missile since the deal was announced. Such testing is prohibited under United Nations Security Council resolutions, which Iran maintains it has not violated.
U.S. State Department officials could not confirm that the test had taken place, but insisted that it is under “serious review” and could constitute a violation of U.N. resolutions. This review could prompt “appropriate actions,” according to the State Department
Critics in Congress have continued to apply pressure to the Obama administration, which they accuse of sweeping Iranian transgressions under the rug in a bid to keep the deal intact.
The missile test comes as Iran continues to increase its military presence in Syria and other countries. Additionally, the Islamic Republic has sunk financial resources into boosting its missile program, as well as its fighting forces.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas), a vocal opponent of the nuclear agreement, said that Iran would continue to violate the agreement because it does not believe there will be any repercussions.
“Nobody should be surprised that Iran is already breaking the agreement,” Cruz said. “They never intended to follow the agreement. Iran knew that. The Obama administration knew that. Israel knew that. Everyone knew it. This is about a domestic objective for the Obama administration.”
Cruz warned that Iran will use the millions of dollars it is receiving as part of the deal to fund its global terrorist operations.
Iran “will continue breaking the deal, using the millions of dollars the Obama administration is trying to send them, to fund radical Islamic terrorists across the globe who will murder innocent Americans, innocent Europeans, and innocent Israelis, and to accelerate their nuclear weapons development program.”
Citing a recent report from the International Atomic Energy Organization that found Iran had been working on nuclear weapons technology until at least 2009, Cruz criticized the Obama administration for turning a blind eye to Iranian transgressions.
“Those are questions that the Obama administration is unwilling to ask,” he said. “Because this deal was never about preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. On the face of it, the only consequence of this deal will be that Iran will acquire nuclear weapons.”
Sens. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) and Kelly Ayotte (R., N.H.) on Tuesday wrote to President Obama, demanding that his administration take concrete action to address Iran’s violations of the agreement.
The administration is “inviting” Iran to continue breaking international agreements, the senators write.
“We reiterate our belief that a failure to hold Iran accountable to its international obligations will invite more violations from Tehran and further endanger the security of Americans and our allies,” the letter states. “In short, we would like to know what specific steps your administration plans to take to respond Iran’s two ballistic missile tests in as many months.”
The senators also raise questions about the White House’s claims that Iran’s ballistic missile program is separate from its nuclear weapons program.
“While your administration has attempted to treat Iran’s ballistic missile program as separate from Iran’s nuclear program, this approach does not withstand scrutiny—as [Director of National Intelligence James] Clapper’s testimony makes clear,” they write. “Iran is developing [intercontinental ballistic missile] capabilities and the sole purpose of an Iranian ICBM is to enable delivery of a nuclear weapon to the United States.”
When asked what Congress can do to address potential failures of the nuclear agreement, Cruz criticized Republican leadership for stymieing efforts among some to block sanctions relief.
“There’s no doubt Congress could act to prevent he implementation of this catastrophic nuclear deal,” he said in the interview. “I’ve been pressing leaders in both houses to do that.”
“Unfortunately,” Cruz said, “Republican leadership has not been willing to use the full constitutional authority and all the tools we have to prevent the deal from going into effect. In fact, the focus seems to be more on securing a show vote than stopping millions of dollars from flowing to the [Iranian leader] Ayatollah Khamenei.”
Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also expressed concern this week about the international silence following Iran’s missile test.
“Iran violates U.N. Security Council resolutions because it knows neither this administration nor the U.N. Security Council is likely to take any action,” Corker said in a statement. “Instead, the administration remains paralyzed and responds to Iran's violations with empty words of condemnation and concern.”
“If we cannot respond to a clear violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution, I have no faith that the U.N. and the Obama administration will implement any form of snapback in response to Iranian violations of the nuclear agreement,” Corker said.
The Obama administration “has the authority to penalize” Iran and its allies, but is refusing to exercise it, Corker said.