423-2: House Passes Bill Targeting Iran’s Ballistic Missile Program

Patrick Goodenough | October 27, 2017 | 4:25am EDT
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Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei takes part in a joint graduation ceremony for army cadets at the Imam Ali Military Academy in Tehran on Wednesday, October 25, 2017. (Photo: Office of the supreme leader)

(CNSNews.com) – The House of Representatives on Thursday passed with overwhelming support bipartisan sanctions legislation targeting Iran’s ballistic missiles, which has provided Tehran with sophisticated S-300 surface-to-air missiles. The bill includes provisions that could ensnare Russia.

The Iran Ballistic Missiles and International Sanctions Enforcement Act (H.R. 1698) also, for the first time, mandates restrictions on entry into the U.S. of those found to be supplying or financing the missile program.

It passed in the House by a vote of 423 to 2, with only Republican libertarian Reps. Thomas Massie of Kentucky and John Duncan of Tennessee opposing.

The latest congressional swipe at Iran came on the heels of Wednesday’s passage of three bills targeting Hezbollah, Iran’s Shi’ite proxy in Lebanon.

“These sanctions will squeeze Iranian and foreign companies, banks and individuals that support the Iranian regime’s illicit weapons programs,” said House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), the bill’s chief sponsor.

Committee member Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) said after the vote, “We sent a strong message to Iran and to those individuals and financial institutions that support its dangerous weapons programs: the days of America standing by and allowing you to build up an arsenal that threatens our families and our allies are over.”

H.R. 1698 requires the president to impose sanctions against Iranian government agencies involved in ballistic missile development, but also against foreign government agencies, entities or individuals that supply or finance such efforts.

Also targeted for sanctions are foreign entities that transfer goods or technology that contribute to Iran’s ability to develop ballistic missiles, including “destabilizing numbers and types of advanced conventional weapons.”

The text explains that the term “destabilizing numbers and types of advanced conventional weapons … includes the S-300 and S-400 missile defense systems.”

Moscow for five years maintained a voluntary ban on sale of the S-300 systems to Iran, but President Vladimir Putin lifted it in an April 2015 decree, arguing the embargo was no longer needed given progress in international nuclear negotiations (which delivered the controversial deal three months later).

The systems are designed to protect military bases and infrastructure against attack by enemy aircraft, and in mid-2016, Iran deployed newly-acquired S-300s at a key underground nuclear facility.

After it did so, the Obama White House said the move was “objectionable” but called the systems “defensive in nature.

Last month the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) displayed S-300 systems at a military parade in central Tehran marking the 37th anniversary of the 1980s Iran-Iraq war.

‘Belligerence and meddling’

The newly-passed legislation adds two new types of sanctions to a menu already available to the administration under existing law. The first is a U.S. visa ban for officers, principals and controlling shareholders of any entity that is designated for sanctions. The second is a two-year ban on the sale of items on the U.S. munitions list to any foreign government found to be in violation by supporting the missile program.

While exceptions are made for foreign officials visiting United Nations headquarters, the visa ban could hamper travel plans by foreign officials or businessmen – including but not limited to Russians – who are designated for supporting the missile program.

The legislation also requires the president to report to Congress, each time Iran tests a ballistic missile, whether that test violates U.N. Security Council resolution 2231, the July 2015 resolution that endorsed the Iran nuclear deal.

Resolution 2231 called upon Iran not to carry out launches of missiles “designed to be capable of delivering a nuclear warhead.”

One day before the legislation was passed, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reiterated the regime’s opposition to any negotiations over the future of its missile program.

“As we have already announced time and again, and announce once more, the country’s defense capabilities and power is not open to negotiations and bargaining,” he told an army cadets’ graduation ceremony.

“We will not engage in any haggling or make any deal with the enemy on the country’s defensive means.”

Welcoming Thursday’s House vote, the exiled Iranian opposition group National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) noted that “the IRGC, Khamenei, his office, and most state entities are involved in the regime’s missile program.”

“The mullahs’ missile program, that is totally controlled by the IRGC, has no objective but to pursue the mullahs’ further belligerence and meddling in the region,” the NCRI secretariat said.

“The clerical regime has devoted a significant budget to this program while the majority of the Iranian people live below the poverty line,” it said. “This program is solely for the regime’s survival and is against the prime interests of the Iranian people.”

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