GOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase

GOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase
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Thirty-four Republican senators are pushing the State Department to confirm Russia and Iran violated a United Nations Security Council resolution when Russia launched its Syria airstrikes from an Iranian airbase this summer.

“We should be using all available tools to dissuade Russia from continuing its airstrikes in Syria that are clearly not in our interest,” the senators wrote to Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryBring on the brokered convention 18 progressive groups sign unity pledge amid Sanders-Warren feud Mellman: Democrats — Buckle up for a wild ride MORE on Monday. “If launching such airstrikes from Iran violates a legally binding Security Council Resolution, then that point should be made clear and enforced.”

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In August, Russia began using an airbase near the city of Hamadan in Iran to launch airstrikes in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad.

The move was the first time in its year-old air campaign that Moscow used a base outside of Russia or Syria and was the first time a foreign power used an Iranian airbase since World War II. It was also widely seen as sending a message to Washington.

Officials from Russia and Iran said the base was just used for refueling. The ability to refuel and fly from Iran shortens the length of time Russian bombers need to fly into Syria.

A week later, Russia stopped using the base amid outrage from some in Iran who saw a foreign power’s use of their base as a breach of sovereignty. Still, officials from both countries left the door open to using the base again in the future.

At the time, the State Department said it was looking into whether using the base violated a Security Council resolution that bans the supply, sale and transfer of combat aircraft to Iran without prior approval by the Security Council.

In their letter, the senators ask Kerry for one of three things: proof that the Security Council approved the use of the Iranian base, an explanation of how using the base didn’t violate the resolution or an outline of steps to be taken to enforce the resolution.

The resolution was passed in July 2015 in support of the nuclear agreement with Iran, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). As such, enforcing the resolution is an important part of enforcing the nuclear deal, the senators wrote.

“This is part of the arms embargo you and President Obama said would remain in place for five years after JCPOA Adoption Day,” they wrote. “The Obama administration promised vigorous enforcement of the JCPOA regime in general—of which U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231 is clearly a part—and the arms embargo specifically.”

Enforcement is also important to prevent Russia from using the airbase again in the future, the senators said.

“Even if the current round of Russian airstrikes from an Iranian air base has come to a halt, we have no reason to believe they would not happen again, especially if there are no consequences for Russia’s prior use of Iranian territory from which to launch attacks in Syria,” they wrote.

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