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Ernst Co-Sponsors Legislation to Impose Tough Sanctions On Iran in Response to Ballistic Missile Violations

Would Require Hard-Hitting Sanctions on Every Sector of Iranian Economy Supporting Tehran’s Ballistic Missile Program

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  In response to recent ballistic missile tests by Iran, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) co-sponsored legislation introduced by Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) to impose tough primary and secondary sanctions on every sector of the Iranian economy that directly or indirectly supports Iran’s ballistic missile program.  Senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Mark Kirk (R-IL), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) helped lead the introduction of the Iran Ballistic Missile Sanctions Act of 2016, which is also being cosponsored by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Rob Portman (R-OH), James Risch (R-ID), and Ted Cruz (R-TX).  The bill introduction coincides with the release today of a new report by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies that demonstrates the need for Ayotte’s legislation.

“I have repeatedly called on the administration to impose tough sanctions against Iran for its illicit and dangerous ballistic missile activities.  That administration has failed to do so, and the potential danger to our homeland, as well as the urgent threat to our forward deployed troops and our allies like Israel, is only growing.  That is why today I have led an effort in the senate to introduce legislation that would require the administration to impose tough, hard-hitting primary and secondary sanctions on every sector of the Iranian economy that supports Tehran’s ballistic missile programs,” said Senator Ayotte. “Tough words alone will not deter the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism from continuing to develop its ballistic missile program, and I call on my colleagues in Congress, as well as the administration, to pass this legislation and impose without delay the strongest possible sanctions in order to hold Tehran accountable.”

“Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and continues to align themselves with groups around the world who threaten our security and national interests,” said Senator Ernst, “The administration has cut deals with Iran despite their participation in these dangerous programs.  I am glad to join my Senate colleagues in demanding that we implement strict sanctions on every sector of the Iranian economy that relates to their ballistic missile program.”

In January 2016, the administration imposed limited sanctions on Iran for firing ballistic missiles in October and November of 2015.  Ayotte called those administration sanctions “tepid” and “weak”.  Iran continues to develop its ballistic missile program and at the beginning of March 2016, again test-fired several ballistic missiles.  Yesterday, during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter agreed that more sanctions should be imposed on Iran for its ballistic missile activities.

In his prepared testimony for yesterday’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr. stated that Iran is the greatest threat to U.S. interests in the Middle East and North Africa, expressed concern about Iran’s ballistic missile programs, and said Tehran’s “ballistic missile force can hold key regional U.S infrastructure at risk.”  He also noted that Tehran has “made significant strides in its missile development programs since 2009,” and warned that Tehran’s space launch vehicle–if configured as a ballistic missile–would be capable of reaching the United States.

On February 9, 2016, James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, testified that, “We judge that Tehran would choose ballistic missiles as its preferred method of delivering nuclear weapons, if it builds them. Iran’s ballistic missiles are inherently capable of delivering WMD, and Tehran already has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East. Iran’s progress on space launch vehicles—along with its desire to deter the United States and its allies—provides Tehran with the means and motivation to develop longer-range missiles, including ICBMs.”

Since 2011, Ayotte has led efforts in the Senate to counter Iran's ballistic missile program, which represents a major threat to our forward deployed troops, regional allies like Israel, and potentially our homeland.  

In brief, the Iran Ballistic Missile Sanctions Act of 2016:

(1) imposes new sanctions against persons that knowingly aid Iran’s ballistic missile program;

(2) requires new sanctions against entities owned 25 percent or greater or controlled by Iran’s key ballistic missile organizations (the Aerospace Industries Organization, the Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group, or the Shahid Bakeri Industrial Group);

(3) requires a Presidential certification that persons listed in UN Security Council Resolutions are not engaged in activities related to ballistic missiles and requires the imposition of sanctions if that certification cannot be made; and

(4) imposes sanctions on persons involved in sectors of Iran’s economy that support, directly or indirectly, Iran’s ballistic program.