Iran Missile Test Draws Reaction in US Congress

20 May 2009

This image made from television broadcast Wednesday, 20 May 2009 by the Iranian television station, IRIB, is said by them to show the launch of a Sejil-2 surface-to-surface missile
This image made from television broadcast Wednesday, 20 May 2009 by the Iranian television station, IRIB, is said by them to show the launch of a Sejil-2 surface-to-surface missile
Iran's statement that it successfully test-fired a medium-range missile has provoked reaction in the U.S. Congress. Lawmakers in the House of Representatives say the test underscores the importance of U.S. support for Israel's anti-missile defenses.

Lawmakers finalizing the U.S. foreign relations budget for the next two years cited the test as yet another example of defiance by Tehran that they said further highlights the need to support Israel's missile defense system.

The House legislation contains a provision requiring a presidential report to Congress on U.S. government assurances to Israel regarding its security and maintenance of its qualitative military edge.

Republicans on the committee wanted stronger language, which they inserted in a Republican alternative to the main legislation, regarding U.S. support for Israel and its missile self-defense projects.

Republican Representative Dan Burton said Congress should send a signal in every piece of legislation it approves that Tehran's ballistic missile and nuclear aspirations are unacceptable.

"Now we know they have a missile that has pinpoint accuracy that can reach Europe and Israel, and [Iranian President] Ahmadinejad has said he wants to see Israel wiped off the face of the Earth, and I think it is extremely important that we send a very strong message by adopting this amendment to this bill that we strongly support a cooperative effort to make sure we have anti-ballistic missile technology that Israel can use to knock down those missiles if they are fired at Israel," said Dan Burton.

Committee chairman Democrat Howard Berman supported an amendment on the subject Burton proposed, with some changes, which was approved by voice vote.

Other Republicans echoed concern about Iran's ballistic missile activities, including Congressman Joe Wilson.

"The challenge of Iran truly today, has been revealed more than ever with their most recent missile test which has a capability of striking to the West as far as southeastern Europe, Turkey, but to the East could strike our allies in Pakistan," said Joe Wilson.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in a Senate hearing that the missile tested by Iran was likely in the lower end of a 2,000 to 2,500 kilometer capability, but added U.S. officials could not yet say if it hit its target as claimed by Tehran.

Concerns about the Iranian missile test were also heard on the Senate floor, Republican Jon Kyl said the United States, and Congress acting through legislation, must take further steps to place economic pressure on Iran.

"If we are serious about confronting the Islamic Republic of Iran, we have got to use all of the economic and diplomatic tools at our disposal to focus pressure on that country and its leadership to cause them to stop pursuing their plans to become a nuclear power," said Jon Kyl.

Kyl was speaking in support of an amendment to the $91.3-billion Senate version of the 2009 Iraq-Afghanistan war supplemental bill, aimed at preventing U.S. government funds from going to companies involved in selling refined petroleum products to Iran.

A Senate vote on the supplemental bill is expected by the end of this week, and differences with a House of Representatives version will be resolved in conference between the two chambers.