Two hawkish Republican senators are pushing the Obama White House to clarify how it intends to respond to two ballistic missile tests carried out by Iran over the past two months — one of which was declared by the administration to have been a “clear violation” of a United Nations Security Council resolution banning such tests.
“It is not clear whether your administration has taken any appropriate steps to hold Tehran accountable for its violation of its international commitments,” Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Mark Kirk of Illinois wrote to President Obama on Tuesday, after reports emerged that Iran had a tested a medium-range ballistic missile on Nov. 21.
If confirmed, the test came roughly five weeks after a similar test on Oct. 10.
Ms. Ayotte and Mr. Kirk voiced unease that the president may be deliberately trying to avoiding the issue for fear that calling out Tehran could derail the major nuclear accord the administration and other world powers reached with Iran last summer.
“Your administration has attempted to treat Iran’s ballistic missile program as separate from Iran’s nuclear program, this approach does not withstand scrutiny,” the senators wrote in their letter, a copy which was circulated to reporters by Mr. Kirk’s office Wednesday.
Implementation of the Iran nuclear deal is still in its tentative stages, pending a series of ongoing reviews by U.N. weapons inspectors. In the interim, all ballistic missile tests by Tehran are banned under a 2010 Security Council resolution that officials say will remain in place until the nuclear deal goes fully into effect.
Samantha Power, the Obama administration’s ambassador to the U.N., has said publicly that the Oct. 10 missile test by Iran was a “clear violation” of the 2010 resolution. During the days following the test, she also described the missile has being “inherently capable of delivering a nuclear weapon.”
On Tuesday, however, Ms. Powers said U.S. officials were still trying to confirm whether the latest test — on Nov. 21 — had actually occurred. “The U.S. is conducting a serious review of the reported incident,” she told reporters after a meeting of the Security Council on unrelated issues.
Ms. Power added that if Washington confirms the test, the U.S. will bring the issue to the 15-nation council and seek appropriate action.
But there is evidence that the test has already been confirmed.
Citing a Western diplomatic source, who spoke on condition of anonymity only, Reuters has reported that the Iran tested a Ghadr-110 missile — a spin-off of the Shahab-3 — near Chabahar, a port city near Iran’s border with Pakistan. The sources also said the missile was liquid-fueled, had a 1,180-mile range and was capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
Ms. Ayotte and Mr. Kirk, meanwhile, voiced frustration to Mr. Obama that the White House had not responded to a previous letter they wrote in mid-October requesting the administration provide an explanation of “specific steps” it planned to take in response to the Oct. 10 test.
“Almost two months later, we have not received a substantive response, and it is not clear whether your administration has taken any appropriate steps to hold Tehran accountable for its violation of its international commitments,” the senators wrote.
They cited a range of concerns, asserting that the tests “enhance Tehran’s capability to target our ally Israel and U.S. military personnel in the region.”
“Tehran could use this missile to threaten thousands of forward deployed U.S. troops, Israel, and eastern Europe,” the senators wrote.