Senior US lawmakers, including supporters of the nuclear agreement with Iran, have chastised the Obama administration for delaying new sanctions against Tehran over its ballistic missile program, according to a report.
The abrupt reversal by the White House came after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani ordered the accelerated production of missiles in response to reports of possible new sanctions, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.
Rouhani called the planned new sanctions a measure in line with hostile US policies to “illegally interfere in the Islamic Republic of Iran’s programs for boosting the defense power.”
Senior US officials told members of Congress that the delay was because of “evolving diplomatic work” between Washington and Tehran.
The White House had notified Congress on Wednesday of a plan to impose new financial sanctions on nearly a dozen companies and individuals for their alleged involvement in Iran’s missile program.
Top congressional lawmakers slammed the delay, arguing that such moves would undermine the US ability to implement the July 14 2015, nuclear agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
“I believe in the power of vigorous enforcement that pushes back on Iran’s bad behavior,” Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware, said Friday. “If we don’t do that, we invite Iran to cheat.”
“I fear that pressure from our ‘partners’—or threats from the Iranian government that it will walk away from the deal or threaten the US in other ways—have caused the administration to rethink imposing sanctions for Iran’s violations of the testing ban,” said Senator Bob Corker, Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The sanctions would have been the first since Iran and the P5+1 group reached the nuclear agreement in July.
Under the JCPOA, the US is obligated to lift the sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.
Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei made it clear that Iran would consider any new sanctions a breach of the JCPOA.
American and Iranian diplomats engaged in intensive deliberations to discuss the issue of new sanctions in recent days.