The new Republican-led Senate is looking to impose further sanctions on Iran, outside of its nuclear program. The senators plan to introduce legislation for these sanctions, based on what they believe are violations of the UN Security Council resolutions when Iran tested ballistic missiles in January and February.
“I think it is now time for Congress to take Iran on directly in terms of what they’ve done outside the nuclear program,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told the Munich Security Conference.
This comes after tensions have already risen between the Trump administration and Iran. President Trump has already approved additional sanctions against individuals and entities linked to Tehran’s missile program. There has also been a war of words between members of Trump’s administration and President Trump himself with Iran via social media and other press outlets.
Congress is not limited in its ability to impose additional sanctions outside of the 2015 nuclear agreement. Senator Christopher Murphy, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told the same panel there was nothing preventing Congress from imposing sanctions beyond those that were lifted in January 2016.
“There’s going to be a conversation about what the proportional response is,” said Murphy. “But I don’t necessarily think there’s going to be partisan division over whether or not we have the ability as Congress to speak on issues outside of the nuclear agreement.”
Murphy also spoke about the U.S. role in the Middle East. “We have to make a decision whether we are going to get involved in the emerging proxy war in a bigger way than we are today, between Iran and Saudi,” said Murphy.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif noted that Iran does not respond well to threats, and that Iran would take what action was necessary. The reality is that since the lifting of the sanctions as part of the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran has seen an increase in funds, which has not significantly lifted their economy, but has been key to increasing their involvement in the region. A recent study by the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA) and In Search of Justice (ISJ) has established that Iran’s activities in the region have been stepped up since 2013 and have found new impetus following the nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1.