Republicans back tough Iran line; Trump says nothing off table

Reuters , Thursday 2 Feb 2017

US President Donald Trump waits for a lunch meeting with Harley Davidson executives and union representatives in the Roosevelt Room of the White House February 2, 2017 in Washington, DC (Photo: AFP)

Senior U.S. congressional Republicans said on Thursday they would support new sanctions on Iran, and President Donald Trump said "nothing is off the table" in dealing with Tehran in the wake of its test-firing of a ballistic missile.

Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, said he would support more sanctions, and that the United States should stop "appeasing" Iran.

"I would be in favor of additional sanctions on Iran," Ryan told reporters at a weekly press conference. I'd like to put as much toothpaste back in the tube as possible. I think the last administration appeased Iran far too much," he said.

Republican lawmakers said they were working with the administration to push back on Iran as much as possible without tearing up the international nuclear deal announced in July 2015.

"I think there's a lot that we can do, now, that we were unable to do before to push back against Iran," Senator Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Reuters.

Corker said his committee was "in the early stages" of working on legislation related to the nuclear issue.

Congressional aides said Trump's administration had already begun looking at actions it could take without waiting for Congress. For example, Trump could impose sanctions authorized by laws passed but not put into effect by the Obama administration, which reached the agreement between Iran, the United States and other world powers.

Corker said he had discussed Iran at the White House with Trump's national security adviser, Michael Flynn, on Wednesday, just before Flynn issued a warning that Washington was putting Iran on notice for its "destabilizing activity."

Corker said the Trump administration would take a stronger stance against Iran, although he did not expect its actions would bring an end to the international nuclear deal.

"The administration, thankfully, is going to follow through on appropriately holding Iran accountable for the violations that are taking place," he told Reuters.

Highlighting the Trump administration's more aggressive tone against Iran, Trump sent messages on Twitter on Wednesday and Thursday targeting the Islamic republic and criticizing the nuclear pact.

On Thursday, Trump told reporters "nothing is off the table" in dealing with Iran.

Another senior Republican foreign policy voice, Senator Lindsey Graham, told CNN he thought Trump should go to Congress to request additional sanctions for a range of activities in the Middle East, including a ballistic missile test last weekend, which he said were not in U.S. interests.

"The world should not only condemn Iran but we should have multi-national sanctions against the regime for their continued violation of the U.N. Security Council resolutions regarding their missile program," Graham said on CNN.

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