Secretary of State John F. Kerry defended Wednesday the Obama administration’s decision not to punish Iran for carrying out two recent ballistic missile tests, but said that if another test occurs anytime soon, the White House might respond with fresh sanctions against Tehran.
“We’ve already let them know how disappointed we are,” Mr. Kerry told lawmakers on Capitol Hill Wednesday, referring to administration frustration over the tests that Iran carried out in October and November — after reaching last summer’s historic nuclear deal with the U.S. and other world powers.
Republicans have criticized the White House for pushing through with sanctions relief under the nuclear deal, even as administration officials admitted that at least one of the tests was a “clear violation” of a 2010 U.N. Security Council resolution aimed at blocking Tehran’s development of ballistic missiles.
Sen. Lindsey Graham raised the issue with Mr. Kerry during a wide-ranging State Department budget hearing held Wednesday by the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The South Carolina Republican specifically asked whether Mr. Kerry would welcome a legislative push from the Republican-controlled Congress to ramp up sanctions on Iran in response to the recent missile tests.
Mr. Kerry responded: “I wouldn’t welcome [that] at this time given the fact that we’ve given them a warning and if they decide to do another launch then I think there’s a rationale.”
Mr. Graham seemed unconvinced.
“Mr. Secretary,” he said, the Iranians “apparently could care less about what you and others are saying.”