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Senators call for additional pressure on Iran, express frustration with administration’s policies

Posted by Albert Gersh - April 05, 2016

Senators from both sides of the aisle expressed a desire to pursue tougher sanctions on Iran in response to its destabilizing and aggressive activities, as well as frustration over the administration’s changing positions on Iran’s ballistic missile tests and its access to dollar transactions. At a Senate hearing on Tuesday, several senators including Democrats Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Coons (D-DE), and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) indicated that they believe Congress should impose additional pressure on Iran to push back against its illicit ballistic missile tests. When Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon stated that he is concerned that such legislation could “give Iran any excuse to walk away from table,” Cardin responded that he won’t “allow Iran to determine what is in compliance with the JCPOA... We will use the international standards but we will not use an Iranian standard.” Senator Menendez called for sanctioning financial institutions that finance Iran’s ballistic missile program and multiple senators argued that the Iran Sanctions Act should be reauthorized in order to send a message to Tehran that if it violates the nuclear deal, the US has sanctions it can snap back.
Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) stated that there is “bipartisan frustration with the perception that previous commitments made by the administration are not squaring with reality.” Corker noted that in previous hearings, administration officials assured Congress that Iran would be banned from missile activity and that any new missile launches would be considered violations of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, but a US-EU letter to the UN stopped short of calling Iran’s missile launches violations, and the Russians are using the weaker language in UNSCR 2231 that only “calls upon” Iran not to engage in missile activity as grounds to block UN sanctions.
Several senators expressed concern over multiple reports that the US would allow Iran access to dollar transactions. An AP report stated that “the Treasury Department has prepared a general license that would permit offshore financial institutions to conduct foreign currency trades in dollars in support of legitimate business with Iran.” Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) stated, “By allowing a US bank a general license to move this money offshore, it is in essence allowing them [Iran] access to the US dollar.” Menendez asserted, “Why are we, outside of meeting our strict obligations, facilitating the possibilities for them [Iran] to use their resources in such a way that is against our interests?”

The United States Navy intercepted a massive Iranian arms shipment in the Arabian Sea on March 28 that was likely headed to Houthi rebels in Yemen, the Pentagon announced on Monday. This is the third time a suspected Yemen-bound weapons shipment from Iran has been seized in recent weeks.The arms, which according to the Navy included “1,500 AK-47s, 200 rocket-propelled grenade launchers and 21 .50-caliber machine guns,” were aboard a commonly used sailing vessel called a dhow. The weapons will remain in American custody until final disposition. The crew was released after the seizure and their nationality was not disclosed.

Shia Houthis in Yemen, who are supported by Tehran, are currently fighting against Saudi and U.S.-backed government forces in the country.

A French ship attached to a multinational anti-smuggling force intercepted a similar weapons cache on March 20 in the Indian Ocean. An Australian ship intercepted an arms shipment 20 miles off the coast of Oman on February 20. That shipment was believed to be headed to Yemen by way of Somalia.

Maj. Gen. Ataollah Salehi, chief of Iran’s army, said over the weekend that the Iranian Navy will upgrade its ships and deploy a contingent to Latin America, which will allow it to “take bigger steps” during voyages.

Yousef al-Otaiba, the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to the U.S., charged in The Wall Street Journal on Monday that Iran was undermining chances of peace in Yemen by continuing to arm the Houthis.

Iran acknowledged its support of the Houthis after the rebels blocked the formation of a national government in October 2014. Shortly afterwards, an Iranian official said that with the capture of much of Sana’a, the Islamic Republic had control of its fourth Arab capital. (via TheTower.org)


Erez Indivo, a young teacher at the ORT Alon School in northern Israel, suffered a fatal heart attack during his morning jog five years ago. Seniors at ORT Alon, part of the Israel Sci-Tech schools network, had Indivo in mind this year when they developed a sensor-embedded mobile phone application that monitors and warns about impending cardiac arrest. This project was among 56 Sci-Tech student presentations at ORT’s annual Young Engineers Conference and Competition, held in February at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. The projects covered robotics, artificial intelligence, the environment, bio-medicine and helping the disabled. This was not just a regular high school science fair; a few of the most outstanding inventions are being further developed through partnerships with professional entities, such as the Israel Electric Company, and venture capitalists. Among the projects are a microbiological water filter to be used by a Polish corporation at a desalination plant in Nigeria; a computer program that converts hand signals to speech; and a helmet attachment developed with the Israel Air Force to monitor pilots for loss of consciousness. “In preparing their projects for the Young Engineers conference, our students have had to coordinate and work with professionals from the medical and high-tech worlds,” explained Zvi Peleg, director-general of the Israel Sci-Tech Schools network, which encompasses 206 institutions and 100,000 students. (via Israel21c)


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