WASHINGTON – In case you missed it, below is an article The News Journal published today featuring U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) discussing Iran’s recent ballistic missile tests. Senator Coons returned this weekend from a trip to Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Vienna where he met with heads of state and senior government officials about enforcing the nuclear deal with Iran and new developments in the Middle East.
News Journal: Coons seeks tough response to missile tests by Iran
By Nicole Gaudiano
WASHINGTON - Sen. Chris Coons criticized the Obama administration Monday for “hesitation” in responding to Iran’s testing of ballistic missiles.
The Delaware Democrat told reporters he is urging the administration to move forward with sanctions related to two missile tests Iran conducted in the fall following the international deal reached in July to curb Tehran's nuclear program.
“I am concerned with the hesitation to move forward with the ballistic missile-related designations,” Coons, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters in a conference call. “I’m going to continue to raise this issue, to push and to insist on rigorous enforcement this year.”
Coons’ comments follow his Jan. 3-9 trip with seven other Democratic senators to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey and Vienna. The trip focused on security developments in the Middle East, including implementation of the nuclear deal with Iran.
Coons, acknowledging Iran’s “bellicose” statements, said he disagrees with the country’s view that sanctions for the missile tests would abrogate the nuclear deal. Coons said the deal doesn’t preclude the United States from enforcing additional sanctions if Iran’s bad behavior continues on human rights, terrorism or ballistic missiles. That legal authority, he said, played a role in his decision to support the deal.
“We should take action, and I think that’s critical to our demonstrating a determination to hold Iran accountable for its acts,” he said.
In December, the administration sent Congress a list of people carrying out “nefarious actions” in the region, including actions related to the ballistic missiles, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough noted on Fox News Sunday. He declined to say when Iran would be punished.
“We will issue those [sanctions] and those designations at the appropriate time. There’s no question about it,” he said.
In a Jan. 6 letter, seven House Democrats urged the administration to announce sanctions “without further delay.”
“The United States and our allies must take immediate, punitive action and send a clear message to Iran that violating international laws, treaties, and agreements will have serious consequences,” says the letter, signed by New York Reps. Nita Lowey, Eliot Engel and Jerrold Nadler and by Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, Albio Sires of New Jersey, Gerald Connolly of Virginia and Susan Davis of California.
Coons traveled to the region amid escalating tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic ties with Iran on Jan. 3 after protesters stormed and set fire to the Saudi embassy in Tehran following Saudi Arabia’s execution of a prominent Shiite cleric.
Coons said a key part of the trip was to reassure allies, including Israel, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, that the United States doesn’t intend to withdraw from the Middle East and doesn’t intend to embrace Iran as a new regional ally over its traditional regional allies.
“There is a lot of concern; there is a lot of misreading of what the agreement with Iran means,” he said.
Coons said he hopes President Barack Obama will explain during his State of the Union address Tuesday night how he plans to strictly enforce the nuclear deal and push back on Iran.
“I think it’s an important moment for the president to reassure our regional allies that we stand with them and that we intend to continue to contain Iran’s bad behavior and to insist on strict enforcement of this nuclear deal,” he said.