Twenty-one Senate Democrats sent a letter to President Barack Obama on Thursday, urging him to take action in response to two recent Iranian ballistic missile tests. “Such action is essential to make clear to Iran’s leaders that there will be consequences for future violations of UN Security Council Resolutions and that the United States reserves the right under the [nuclear agreement] to take unilateral action in response to this and other significant actions by Iran in the areas of ballistic missile development, terrorism and human rights," the letter read. It continued that, if the U.S. did not respond to this Iranian provocation, it could lead the leaders of that country to “also question the willingness of the international community to respond to violations of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.” Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said earlier this week, "While these ballistic missile tests are outside of the parameters of the [deal] our response has to be strategic and we have to make sure Iran knows that it can't continue to simply blatantly disregard the international community and the U.N. Security Council.”
Thirty-six Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) sent a letter to President Obama on Wednesday, urging the administration to respond to the ballistic missile launch: “We are concerned that your administration is failing to respond to Iran’s dangerous and destabilizing actions out of an eagerness to see the Iran deal go forward." The letter emphasizes that Iran is developing its ballistic missile capabilities to deliver a nuclear warhead and, therefore, “it is a mistake to treat Iran’s ballistic missile program as separate from Iran’s nuclear program. We urge your administration to not lift sanctions on Iran that would provide billions of dollars in economic relief.”
The United Nations Panel of Experts determined Tuesday that Iran’s October ballistic missile test was in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1929, which prohibits Iran from “any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using ballistic missile technology.” Iran has stated unequivocally that it would continue with such tests and ballistic missile development. Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan said Wednesday, “Since day one of the endorsement of the JCPOA…our different tests have not [been] postponed even for a single day, hour or moment; rather we have not even felt any doubt about declaring them.”
Former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel criticized the administration of President Barack Obama for its failure to develop a clear strategy on Syria in the face of escalating violence and a severe humanitarian catastrophe, in an interview with Foreign Policy published on Friday.
Hagel revealed that in August 2013, after Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad violated Obama’s “red line” by using chemical weapons on civilians in a suburb of Damascus, American forces were ready to launch attacks on Syria. The president, however, opted to pursue a diplomatic path and ordered Hagel to call off the planned operation. “There’s no question in my mind that it hurt the credibility of the president’s word when this occurred,” Hagel said.
Hagel was once again struck by the administration’s lack of strategy in September 2014, when Sen. John McCain (R – Ariz.) asked him whether the United States was willing to protect the anti-Assad forces it was backing if they were attacked. According to Hagel, the White House had been considering that question for weeks, but had yet to reach a decision. Hagel chose to tell McCain that the U.S. was prepared to assist the rebels, explaining that had he not given this assurance, “every ally would have walked away from us in the Middle East.” The White House’s failure to issue a clear statement to this “damn crucial question” was a “glaring” omission, he added.
Hagel claimed that when he raised these concerns a month later in a memo to the White House, his suggestions were not well-received. “I was saying, ‘We’re not getting to where we need to be,'” he explained. “I’m getting this from all of my colleagues around the world. All of my counterparts are coming up to me at NATO meetings and everywhere, saying, ‘What are you doing? Where is this going?’”
In addition to faulting the administration for lacking a coherent policy on Syria, Hagel criticized the White House for often interfering with the workings of the Department of Defense, a similar to complaint to those made by former defense secretaries Robert Gates and Leon Panetta.
Although he doesn’t currently advocate pursuing a more aggressive military campaign against ISIS, last year at a press briefing Hagel described the terror group as a threat “beyond anything we’ve seen.” At the same event, he also called Assad “a central part of the problem” in the Middle East.
Last month, Secretary of State John Kerry expressed a similar sentiment when he observed that Assad, who is backed by Iran, “cut his own deal” with ISIS and characterized the relationship between the dictator and terror group as “symbiotic.” (via TheTower.org)