Lindsey Graham says US must pressure Tehran through policy, resolutions to force the regime to give up missile program
February 19, 2017
A senior Republican senator called for new sanctions against Iran to pressure the regime to give up their military aspirations.
Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on Sunday, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) proposed new sanctions against Iran, including for what he said were violations of UN resolutions and destabilizing the Mideast.
Asked what approach he seeks against Iran, he replied: “It’s a combination of economic pressure, very tough policy, and of course to impose the resolutions of [the UN] Security Council, for example, the ballistic missiles.”
Graham said that Iran has been working to try and build a nuclear weapon, and “if they say they haven’t, they’re lying.”
He called on US lawmakers to enact legislation to pressure Iran to give up its goals.
“I think it is now time for the Congress to take Iran on directly in terms of what they’ve done outside the nuclear program,” he said. “I think most Republicans are on board with that concept and we’ll see where President Trump’s at.”
President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran, the US and five other world powers, under which Tehran agreed to curb its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions, but hasn’t said what he plans to do about it.
His administration has said Iran was “on notice” over a recent ballistic missile test, and imposed new sanctions on more than two dozen Iranian companies and individuals.
Claiming that Tehran was not acting in good faith and was working to destabilize the region Graham called on the regime to cease its provocations.
“Iran is a bad actor in the greatest sense of the word when it comes to the region,” he said. “To Iran, I say, if you want us to treat you differently then stop building missiles, test-firing them in defiance of UN resolution and writing ‘Death to Israel’ on the missile. That’s a mixed message.”
Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) told the delegates that even though he had backed President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal, there remained the possibility of sanctions if Iran continues with its missile testing.
“There’s going to be a conversation about what the proportional response is,” Murphy said. “But I don’t necessarily think there’s going to be partisan division over whether or not we have the ability as a Congress to speak on issues outside of the nuclear agreement.”
He said that the US has to make a decision about its level of direct involvement in the region.
“We have to make a decision whether we are going to get involved in the emerging proxy war in a bigger way than we are today, between Iran and Saudi,” he said.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif rejected the threats from the senators, calling instead for respect.
“Iran doesn’t respond well to threats,” Zarif. “We don’t respond well to coercion. We don’t respond well to sanctions, but we respond very well to mutual respect. We respond very well to arrangements to reach mutually acceptable scenarios.”
“Iran is unmoved by threats,” he said.
“Everybody tested us for many years — all threats and coercions were imposed on us,” Zarif added. He mocked “the concept of crippling sanctions,” which he said didn’t stop Iran acquiring thousands more centrifuges, used for enriching uranium, before talks with the US on the nuclear agreement got underway.
Iran has always said it has no interest in nuclear weapons. Asked how long it would take to make one if it did decide it wanted such weapons, Zarif replied: “We are not going to produce nuclear weapons, period. So it will take forever for Iran to produce nuclear weapons.”