Obama's UN envoy grilled on Iranian missile tests

Obama's UN envoy grilled on Iranian missile tests
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Lawmakers from both parties grilled U.N. Ambassador Samantha PowerSamantha Jane PowerFormer US envoy Samantha Power: Trump finding 'new ways to compensate Putin for election interference' Former UN ambassador: Republicans have made a 'devil's bargain' to accept Trump Obama U.N. ambassador: Trump has 'endorsed ethnic cleansing' MORE on Wednesday, demanding the United Nations act quickly over claims Iran has tested ballistic missiles.

Power told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that the Obama administration and U.N. Security Council are still investigating the two alleged tests in October and November.

“We are still looking to confirm those recent reports,” Power said of the November launch.

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“We confirmed the [October] violation, we brought it to the U.N. Security Council, the panel of experts is investigating the matter, and will report that to the Council when it’s ready. The U.N. machinery, as you know, works slowly.”

But lawmakers rebuked Power and said more decisive action was needed soon, alleging that the tests violate U.N. resolutions.

“Non-action here is just going to empower them [Iran] to continue to violate and what I think the Ambassador just said is that the U.N. is going to do nothing,” said Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerRNC says ex-Trump ambassador nominee's efforts 'to link future contributions to an official action' were 'inappropriate' Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing MORE (R-Tenn.).

Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by AdvaMed — House panel delays impeachment vote until Friday Senate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial Democrats spend big to put Senate in play MORE (R-Colo.) also blasted the administration.

“So what other actions has the administration taken in response to the missile test, other than taking it to a panel, talking about it, and having a meeting?” he asked.

According to reports,  Iran test-fired a medium-range ballistic missile that is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead on Nov. 21. The missile is reportedly similar to one they previously tested on Oct. 10.

Lawmakers are concerned the tests are a sign the nuclear deal is encouraging Iran to break international rules without consequences.

“We understand that it [the Iran nuclear deal] is what’s governing our actions right now and on both sides of the aisle, regardless of how people voted, we want to make sure the agreement is implemented in the way that it was laid out,” Corker said.

Corker, along with Gardner and Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezSaagar Enjeti says Corbyn's defeat in UK election represents 'dire warning' for Democrats Democrats worried by Jeremy Corbyn's UK rise amid anti-Semitism Lankford to be named next Senate Ethics chairman MORE (D-N.J.), pressed Power to elaborate on possible consequences Iran could face if the U.N. decides Tehran broke international rules.

Power said the “snap back” provision of the nuclear deal allows the U.N. to reinforce sanctions on the country, if Iran does not dismantle its nuclear weapon facilities.

Menendez said the U.N. has to “send a real, clear, unequivocal, unambiguous message to the Iranians that we can be robustly active and take actions. Conversations are not action.”

The U.N. Security Council is expected to meet on Tuesday to discuss the Iranian missile tests.

The senators also questioned Power about the administration's response to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the U.N.'s role.

Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOvernight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — House passes sweeping Pelosi bill to lower drug prices | Senate confirms Trump FDA pick | Trump officials approve Medicaid work requirements in South Carolina Senate confirms Trump's nominee to lead FDA Democrats worried by Jeremy Corbyn's UK rise amid anti-Semitism MORE (D-Va.) asked if countries would be more united against ISIS if Congress passed a new authorization for the use of military force. Kaine has long pushed for an ISIS war measure in Congress to authorize action.

“I think people are puzzled given the priority that the American people [have on it] and that there’s a bipartisan basis in both houses of Congress attached to the anti-ISIS struggle,” Power said of efforts to pass an ISIS war bill.

“The question is as a political symbol and as reinforcement of the effort that we are making that there should be an ability to get consensus here.”

Corker pushed back, saying “there is consensus in Congress.”

“They [the Obama administration] have every authority that they need to defeat and destroy ISIS and I believe that everyone in the world understands that Congress wants to see that happen,” he said.

“Has the president declared war on ISIS?,” he asked.

“I believe he has said that he will defeat and destroy ISIS,” Power responded.