GOP Ties Iran Sanctions Fight to Defense Bill
By Jordain Carney
May 25, 2016
Senate Republicans are linking a battle over Iran sanctions
to a wide-ranging defense policy bill.
Ayotte—backed by 18 other Republican senators—has filed an amendment to
the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to expand sanctions on Iran's
ballistic missile program and individuals who support it.
Ayotte's amendments would also extend the Iran Sanctions
Act, currently set to expire at the end of the year, though 2031.
The New Hampshire Republican warned earlier this year that
she would push for new sanctions against Iran unless the Obama administration
took a firmer stance against a series of reported ballistic missile tests.
Gardner (R-Colo.), one of the senator's backing Ayotte's amendment,
said that "instead of reportedly sweetening sanctions relief, the Obama
administration must make good on its promise to use the tools at its disposal to
react to Iran's bad behavior."
Though the Senate Republicans failed to block the Iran
nuclear deal in Congress, they've continued to voice frustration over the
agreement. The recent fallout over a profile of Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy
national security advisor, and a fight over buying heavy water from Iran have
kept lawmakers' attention focused on the issue.
Corker (R-Tenn.) and Ben
Cardin (D-Md.), the top members of the Foreign Relations Committee,
have been working on sanctions legislation for months targeting Iran's ballistic
missile program and extending the Iran Sanctions Act.
Cornyn (R-Texas), the Senate's No. 2 Republican, has also filed an
amendment to sanction individuals involved with an incident in which Iran
boarded U.S. ships and held American sailors earlier this year. The incident
sparked outrage from lawmakers, ahead of President Obama's final State of the
Cornyn wants Obama to determine and report to Congress if
Iran violated the Geneva Convention or any "right under international law
to conduct innocent passage."
If the administration determines a violation did occur,
they must hand over a list of Iranian officials involved and sanction them,
including blocking them for entering the United States and freezing assets.
"When one of our Navy's boats is innocently transiting
across Iranian waters and is not engaged in military activity or taking any
other action that would prejudice the peace and security of Iran, it's against
the law... to stop, board and seize that vessel," Cornyn said.
Rubio (R-Fla.) also wants to block the Defense Department from entering
into contracts with individuals who support currently sanctioned Iranians or are
connected to the Iran Revolutionary Guards.
Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) is asking the administration to
hand over reports on any coordination between Russia and Iran, between Iran and
North Korea and on whether Iran is using commercial aircraft for illegal
Cornyn said he would be offering another amendment
targeting Iran-based Mahan Airline, which he referred to as a "terrorist
airline or airways."
The proposal, he said, would require the Department of
Homeland Security to list the airports the airline flies to, and if any
additional security measures that are needed.
"The largest commercial airline is the number-one
state sponsor of terrorism," Cornyn added. "This airline has
repeatedly played a role in exporting Iran's terrorism."