Lawmakers urge Obama to stop Russian missile system sale to Iran

Lawmakers urge Obama to stop Russian missile system sale to Iran
© Russia Today

The leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Friday released a letter to President Obama urging him to consider using sanctions to stop Russia from delivering missile systems to Iran.  

“If completed, the transfer of this sophisticated weapons system would significantly bolster Iran’s military capabilities and introduce new obstacles to our ability to eliminate the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon,” wrote Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.). 

“We believe existing U.S. sanctions should be used to deter Russia from transferring this or other dangerous weapons systems to Iran,” they said in the April 30 letter. 

ADVERTISEMENT
U.S. and international negotiators are racing to complete a deal with Iran by a deadline of June 30 that would lift sanctions on Iran in exchange for limits on its nuclear program, which Iran says is peaceful but the West suspects is for a nuclear weapon. 

Days after negotiators unveiled the framework of an agreement with Iran on April 2, Russia announced it was selling the advanced surface-to-air missile system to Iran. 

Pentagon officials have said they object to the sale, and that the U.S. has taken up the issue with Russia diplomatically. But they also insist it will not affect their military options against Iran. 

President Obama said at an April 17 news conference that Russia is not prohibited by sanctions from selling the “defensive weapons” to Iran. 

Royce and Engel argued in their letter that although Moscow may not be prohibited by existing sanctions, existing U.S. law does provide the him with the authority to apply sanctions in response a transfer of “destabilizing” weapons systems.

They cited the Iran-Iraq Arms Nonproliferation Act and the Iran Sanctions Act, which provide authority to sanction individuals or countries who are aiding Iran’s efforts to acquire or develop “destabilizing numbers and types of advanced conventional weapons.”

They urged the president to make a determination as to whether Moscow was doing so, “given the serious implications for the United States and our allies in the region.” 

“We are concerned that without such a determination, your recent comments could be interpreted as the United States acquiescing to this transfer,” they said.