The U.S. administration has said that Iran’s recent test of a new, long-range, Iranian surface-to-surface ballistic missile is not in violation of the nuclear agreement between Iran and the world powers.
The pronouncement runs contrary to what the administration has repeatedly told the American people about the terms of the recent nuclear agreement with Iran – namely that the current UN restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missile program will remain in place for eight years .
The administration has acknowledged that there are “strong indications” that the test violates United Nations Security Council resolution 1929 (as well as others) forbidding Iran to develop and test ballistic missiles. However, these violations are “altogether separate from the nuclear agreement Iran reached with the rest of the world,” according to White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest.
UN Security Council Resolution 2231 (the codification of the Iran agreement) forbids Iran from developing ballistic missiles capable of carrying a nuclear weapon for eight years after the adoption of the nuclear agreement. The resolution also forbids test launches of any missiles using ballistic technology.
Notwithstanding the legal question of how connected the agreement is with the UN Security Council Resolution 2231, the While House is clearly ignoring that fact that, according to the agreement, “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons.”
Ballistic missiles are designed to deliver a nuclear payload (as opposed to conventional weapons, whose payload is too limited to be used with a ballistic weapon because of cost-effectiveness).
Moreover, just last week, the Iranian parliament declared that UNSCR 2231 was "apparently… the [nuclear agreement’s] only legal backing." Nevertheless, Iran said that it would not be bound by any part of the resolution that limits its military work.
The question is, why is the administration backing up Iran on this key point? The question becomes more sticky considering Iran’s recent belligerent pronouncements:
- Warning the US about making any military move against Iran, General Alireza Tangsiri, a naval commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps said this week, "I declare now that if the enemy wants to spark a war against Iran, we will chase them even to the Gulf of Mexico and we will (certainly) do it.
- Commenting on the recent ballistic missile test, Iran’s Minister of Defense General Hossein Dehqan said, "To follow our defense programs, we don't ask permission from anyone.”
- The commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Aerospace Force Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh said all U.S. military bases in the Middle East “are fully within the range of our missiles.”
Iran’s recent test of its new ballistic missile took place the same day as its parliament voted to approve the nuclear agreement (it will still need to be approved by the Supreme National Security Council). Perhaps the timing of the test prompted White House spokesman Earnest to suggest that Iran tested the missile to assuage its hard-liners who oppose the deal.
Yet, telling the American people that the development and testing of ballistic missiles is not part of the agreement is not prohibited for Iran after selling the agreement on this point is plainly deceitful.
Instead of being focused on Iranian opposition, the U.S. administration would do well to hold Iran to its agreements and alleviate the fear of the vast majority of Americans that we have been hoodwinked into enabling a nuclear-armed Iran.
Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org