WASHINGTON - Washington is considering how to respond to an Iranian ballistic missile launch that violated UN Security Council resolutions, senior US officials said on Thursday, as senators pressed for a strong reaction.
"We are now actively considering the appropriate consequences to that launch in October," Stephen Mull, the State Department's lead coordinator for implementing an international nuclear deal with Iran, told a Senate committee hearing.Almost every Republican US lawmaker, as well as several of President Barack Obama's fellow Democrats, opposed the nuclear agreement announced in July, in which Iran agreed with major powers to curtail its nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.
Concerns in the United States about the agreement have intensified since Iran's rocket test on Oct. 10 and other events seen as hostile, including the conviction of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, who has been held by Iran's government for over 500 days.
Many lawmakers criticize the Obama administration for what they see as an inadequate response to Tehran. Rezaian's brother attended Thursday's hearing.
"One area that we all agree on is the need to be tough on any destabilizing or illegal action by Iran. With that view, I think the agreement is off to a really terrible start," said Republican Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
In a report first reported by Reuters, a team of sanctions monitors found on Tuesday that Iran violated a UN Security Council resolution by test-firing a missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead.
"We have a very permissive environment," said Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, who opposes the nuclear deal, as he closely questioned Mull and other administration officials about the response to the missile test.
Another Democrat, Senator Chris Coons, who backed the Iran deal but with reservations, said that starting next month members of Congress would push for renewal of a US sanctions bill that is in force until the end of 2016.
Mull said the administration is "looked forward" to working with Congress on the issue.
Asked whether he thought Iran would view renewing the legislation as a US violation of the Iran nuclear deal, Mull said it would be hard to predict.
Separately, two-thirds of the Republicans in the Senate signed a letter sent to Obama on Wednesday urging him not to lift sanctions on Iran under the nuclear deal, saying Tehran's recent ballistic missile testing showed "blatant disregard for its international obligations."