Iran Tests Ballistic Missile – Deal Breaker?

Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps shows an Iranian long range missile launched at an undisclosed location in Iran on March 9, 2016. Image Source: Handout, EPA
Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps shows an Iranian long range missile launched at an undisclosed location in Iran on March 9, 2016. Image Source: Handout, EPA

One of former President Barack Obama’s most controversial moves was to sign a deal with Iran that freed up an estimated $150 billion dollars in assets in return for not carrying on with nuclear programs and “weaponization.” President Trump called this the “worst deal” and other critics have suggested that it was nothing more than a bribe to establish an Obama foreign policy “legacy.”

The most commonly mentioned problems with the Iran deal include the fact that observers would not be allowed and nuclear inspections (military facilities excluded) would have to be scheduled weeks in advance. Secondly, there are doubts as to whether the money “released” to Iran was actually from “frozen assets” or was just a cold hard cash bribe paid for by the American taxpayer.

As to whether or not Iran is sticking to the deal, today’s announcement in Tehran, by Iran’s state media, requires some explanation. They stated that they have “successfully” tested a new ballistic missile that can carry multiple warheads and can travel up to 2,000km. This is “technically” NOT part of the Iran Nuclear Deal. However, it is a possible violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231.

Previous U.N. resolutions had stated that the council “decides that Iran shall not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.” The new resolution states “Iran is called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.” The language change from “shall not” to “called upon not to” represents a softening in tone, signaling a more non-legally-binding appeal.

President Rouhani seems determined to lay the blame for their researching and testing squarely on the shoulders of President Trump. In response to the president’s United Nations address, Rouhani said: “We will strengthen our defense and military capabilities … Whether you want it or not.”

The changes in the Resolution wording were made precisely because the “Iran Deal” does not contain any limits on the country’s missile programs, said Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey. Further, the new resolution refers to missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons,” rather than simply “capable” of such delivery. So Iran now argues that its missiles are not “designed” for such capability, though they may well be, and most likely ARE capable.

Just weeks ago, President Rouhani said that Iran would react to imposed sanctions by coming back with far more advanced ballistics than have previously been seen. Iran Threatens to Get Nuclear “Within Hours.” To those who follow happenings in Iran, this shows that they have never actually stopped working on their nuclear ballistic missile programs, and are merely looking for an excuse to openly cancel the deal, keep the money, and blame someone else.

To many, it is becoming clearer that the Iran Deal was never meant to actually work. If the purpose was to stop the Iranian government from engaging in nuclear and ballistic missile testing and research, then why were inspection of ballistic and missile testing facilities not included?

Critics argue that it was a deal done for nothing more than a “legacy” checklist item for President Obama. Claiming it was never intended to last beyond his presidency. It was designed to give the impression that he was a successful diplomat in Foreign Relations and could achieve accord where no one has before.  They argue that it is very easy to make a short-term accord if you are willing to hand over billions of dollars without any guarantees.

In retrospect, when viewed in conjunction with the softened U.N. Resolution language regarding ballistic missiles, it could be argued that the Iran Deal has actually accelerated Iran’s nuclear State ambitions.

“If one finds that the missiles used are designed for nuclear weapon delivery, it appears to me that there will evidently be also a problem with the compliance with the JCPOA [Iran Nuclear Deal], which bans weaponization activities,” said Olli Heinonen, who led the IAEA’s safeguards section during the 2003-2005 talks between Iran and three European powers (Britain, France and Germany).

That argument is possible, but will be difficult to prove, according to experts. No legal determination hasn’t been made, one way or the other, meaning that the testing is “technically” not yet a violation of the Iran Deal or U.N. Resolution.

About the Author

Mark A
Mark A
Mark is a political writer and journalist who has worked on campaigns for Brexit.

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