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US Senator Discusses Iran, Syria, North Korea

A leading member of the U.S. Senate says he is deeply concerned about the nuclear agreement with Iran, but wants it to succeed.

Bob Corker of Tennessee belongs to the Republican Party and is chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee for the Senate. He spoke this week with VOA’s Michael Bowman.

The Foreign Relations Committee meets about pressing global issues. Among those are the war in Syria, North Korea’s nuclear program and the lifting of sanctions on Iran. The Iran sanctions were designed to punish the Iranian government for seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

Last year, the U.S. helped negotiate an agreement that lifted the sanctions. President Barack Obama praised Congress, saying the world had set limits on Iran’s nuclear activities without going to war.

Senator Corker did not support the lifting of sanctions on Iran. He said that Iran violated the deal reached in July by testing a long-range missile in October. He said that the U.S. would continue to pressure Iran to honor the terms of the agreement.

“… I think where we can add strength, you say in a Republican Congress, I say in a bipartisan manner because it’s felt there are concerns on both sides of the aisle, is to do everything we can to hold Iran’s feet to the fire.

“Since the agreement was agreed to, they violated UN Security Council Resolutions relative again to ballistic missile testing. And yet, as you can see there has been no pushback at all which has really disappointing at the UN Security Council.”

Some Republicans have said that a new president should “rip up” the agreement. When asked about it, Corker said a new president must convene and lead. He said the president will have to consider the partners in the deal to get the best results.

“Probably the best way to do it is not just to come in a rip it, but to assess and to move ahead based on where we are at the time. “

Questions about Syria Peace Efforts

Corker also spoke about the civil war in Syria. The Syrian government, opposition groups and international negotiators are talking in Switzerland. Corker told VOA those meetings are difficult.

"I think the opposition that, you know, we communicated some with last week has been put in a very awkward place. The humanitarian things that they had asked for have not occurred..."

Opposition groups say they want government airstrikes to stop so humanitarian aid can be brought to areas controlled by rebels. Syrian government forces, with support from Russia, have increased attacks on the city of Aleppo.

Corker said he supports the negotiations.

"I certainly support diplomatic talks as I think everyone would, but the elements at present do not feel that they are in their proper place.”

Sanctions on North Korea to Affect Chinese Entities

The senator shared with VOA his thoughts about sanctions aimed at North Korea. His committee approved a bill last week that increases sanctions related to North Korea’s nuclear program.

That bill responded to a nuclear test that North Korea said it carried out on January 6. The measure is aimed at entities or groups that supply North Korea’s military. Some of those entities and groups are Chinese organizations selling to North Korea.

“I don’t think there is any question that some of those entities are Chinese.”

Corker said China was key to North Korea’s actions. He said he was not satisfied with progress made by the United Nations Security Council about North Korea.

Speaking about China and additional U.S. sanctions, he said, “I hope these sanctions will change that and hopefully call them to respond to a different way.”

I’m Mario Ritter.

Mario Ritter wrote this story with reporting by Michael Bowman. George Grow was the editor.

What do you think about the Senator’s comments? Share your thoughts in the comment section.


Words in This Story

sanctions – n. actions taken or an order give to force a country to obey international law by limiting trade or other actions

awkward – adj. not easy to deal with

bipartisan – adj. involving two political parties

both sides of the aisle – idiom involving both political parties

pushback – n. an effort to counteract or push back against an action

rip up – v. to cancel; to break up or destroy

convene – v. to come together in a group for a meeting

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