Obama Admin Under Scrutiny for
Ignoring U.S. Law Banning Russian Arms Sale to Iran
By Adam Kredo
Washington Free Beacon
June 20, 2016
The Obama administration is
stalling a congressional inquiry into its ongoing refusal to uphold a U.S. law
that would sanction Russia for selling advanced missile systems to Iran,
according to recent communications between the State Department and Congress
exclusively obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
President Obama has the authority
under U.S. law to designate as illegal Russia’s recent sale to Iran of the
advanced S-300 missile system, a long-range weapon that would boost the Islamic
Republic’s military capabilities.
The administration has so far
declined to exercise its sanction authority under law and has been stalling
attempts by Congress to discern the rationale behind this decision, prompting
accusations that the administration is ignoring U.S. law and
“acquiescing” to the sale in order to preserve last summer’s comprehensive
Rep. Steve Chabot (R., Ohio), who
first launched an inquiry challenging the administration’s reluctance to
sanction the sale in early April, told the Free Beacon that the White
House is continuing to punt questions from lawmakers, jeopardizing efforts by
Western nations to block the arms sale.
The administration informed Chabot
on June 8—more than two months after his initial request—that it has not
reached a determination as to whether it will move forward with sanctions as
specified under the law.
Obama administration officials
reiterated this stance when contacted by the Free Beacon late last
“Frankly, I’m disappointed in
the administration’s response to my letter requesting a quick determination
that Russia’s transfer of the S-300 missile system to Iran is progressing
their efforts to acquire advanced conventional weapons systems,” Chabot told
the Free Beacon. “Unfortunately, the administration’s abysmal response
indicates that they are more than reluctant to provide a determination on this
case—which is exceptionally disconcerting considering the administration
admits they have been trying to persuade Russia not to proceed with the weapon
U.S. officials continue to avoid
specifying whether the president will use current U.S. laws to designate the
sale as illicit and place sanctions upon Russia.
This power, granted under the
Iran-Iraq Arms Nonproliferation Act of 1992, allows the president to sanction
any sale of “advanced conventional weapons” to Iran by other nations.
Obama administration officials
have not explained why the law is still not being followed months after
Russia announced it had made good on the multi-million dollar arms sale to Iran.
“We regret the delay in
responding to your inquiry,” the State Department informed Chabot in its most
recent communication, according to a copy viewed
by the Free Beacon.
While the administration remains
“concerned” about the S-300 sale, it is not prepared to take action,
according to the State Department, which was ordered by the White House to
provide Chabot’s office with a response.
“We remain concerned about this
and have strongly urged Russia not to proceed with the sale of an S-300 system
to Iran, as the transfer of these surface-to-air weapons systems to Iran would
add to tension in the region and be clearly inconsistent with our common
nonproliferation goals,” the State Department wrote to Chabot.
“The Department will continue to
implement, as required, the various sanctions authorities we have to support our
non-proliferation priorities,” the letter adds.
A State Department official
further told the Free Beacon it has not yet decided how to react to
“We’re continuing to closely
follow reports concerning the delivery of the S-300 missile system
from Russia to Iran,” said the official, who was not authorized to speak on
record. “We have not yet made any determination as to whether this
delivery, if and when complete, would trigger any actions under U.S.
Lawmakers, as well as reporters,
have been trying for months to obtain answers from the administration about the
sale. So far, U.S. officials have declined to provide a rationale as to why the
administration has not exercised its sanction authority.
“These systems would
significantly bolster Iran’s offensive capabilities and introduce new
obstacles to our efforts to eliminate the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon. I
believe existing U.S. sanctions should be used to deter Russia from transferring
this or other dangerous weapons systems to Iran,” Chabot wrote in his initial
inquiry to the White House.
Obama administration officials are
fighting against enforcing U.S. laws designating the sale in order to keep Iran
from breaking its commitments under the nuclear agreement, according to one
foreign policy adviser who works intimately with Congress on the issue.
“The Obama administration seems
willing to let Iran get away with anything, up to and including acquiring
destabilizing weapons that will remake the military balance in the Middle East,
just to preserve the nuclear deal,” the source said. “It’s difficult to
imagine what would ever trigger U.S. action, if importing these missiles that
make Iran immune from outside pressure isn’t enough. Critics of the Iran deal
predicted a lot of this, but the collapse on S-300s is worse than many of them