Following the UN Security Council’s endorsement of the Iran nuclear deal, Iranian military and political spokesmen clarified Iran’s uncompromising position on the continued development of its ballistic missile program and emphasized that any attempt to challenge the program means crossing a red line. Security Council Resolution 2231 leaves in place for eight years the embargo on selling missile technology to Iran and for five years the embargo on selling heavy weapons to it.
Defense Minister: We Will Not Permit Access to Military Facilities
Iranian Defense Minister Hussein Dehghan again affirmed, reiterating Iran’s position throughout the nuclear talks with the world powers, that issues involving Iran’s missile program are not up for discussion and Iran is determined to keep developing all of its missile programs. As for attempts to clarify Iran’s past activity regarding “possible military dimensions” of its nuclear program, Dehghan again underlined that Iran will definitely not grant anyone access to its security and military secrets and facilities.1
Concerning the statements about Iran by U.S. spokesmen after the deal was signed, Dehghan said:
The U.S. officials make boastful remarks and imagine that they can impose anything on the Iranian nation because they lack a proper knowledge of the Iranian nation…the time has come now for the Americans to realize that they are not the world’s super power and no one recognizes them as such any longer.2
The IRGC Commander: The Crossing of Red Lines
Upon the Security Council’s endorsement of the nuclear deal, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Mohammad Ali Jafari, said that several provisions of the resolution constitute the crossing of red lines that Iran set, particularly on the issue of the preservation and development of its military capabilities, and that Iran will never accept this.3 The adviser to the Supreme Leader’s Representative at the IRGC, Yadollah Javani, likewise asserted that Iran’s ability to defend itself, and particularly its missile capabilities, have constituted a red line throughout the negotiations and Iran will not cross it in any way. Javani claimed that the United States and its partners have been trying to use the nuclear talks to weaken Iran and undercut its ability to defend itself.4 The deputy commander of the IRGC for political affairs, Brig. Gen. Rasoul Sanayee Ra’ad, reiterated that “Iran’s military capabilities, including access to ballistic missiles, are no bargaining chip or agenda.”5
The Foreign Ministry: The Agreement Does Not Address the Missile Program
After the adoption of Resolution 2231, the Iranian Foreign Ministry hastened to make clear that:
Iran will continue to enhance its defense capabilities to safeguard its sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity against any potential acts of aggression as well as the threat of terrorism in the region. Iran’s military capabilities, including development of its ballistic missiles, are solely meant for defense as they have not been designed to carry nuclear warheads, and those capabilities are outside the scope of the UN resolution and its annexes.6
The Majlis: We Will Protect the Missile Program
The members of the Iranian Majlis (parliament) warned that several provisions of the agreement signed in Vienna are likely to cross the red lines drawn by Supreme Leader Khamenei, particularly regarding the preservation and development of Iran’s military capabilities. Ebrahim Aqamohammadi, a member of the Majlis’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, warned that the Majlis
will accept no clause of the final agreement that it deems as to be in violation of people’s rights and in opposition to our military capabilities…. Our military capability is not something that we could offer to others, and the parliament while studying the text and finalizing it, will surely not impose restrictions on the Iranian nation’s confrontation against the enemies.7
Seyyed Mehdi Hashemi, a Tehran member of the Majlis, said the Majlis would “reject any limitations on the country’s access to conventional weapons, especially ballistic missiles.”8
The Missile Program: A Central Component of Iran’s National Security Concept
Without connection to the nuclear talks, Iran will keep developing its programs for missiles and rockets of various ranges as it has done so far with considerable success despite the weapons embargo.
The missiles and rockets will continue to be a central component of Iran’s national security concept, which involves the capability to launch missiles and rockets at Israel and at Western and Arab targets throughout the Middle East, and of its concept of asymmetrical war against its enemies. This concerns both Iran’s own borders (specifically the Western countries and the Gulf States in the Persian Gulf) and its various Middle Eastern proxies, from Hizbullah on Israel’s northern border and the Palestinian organizations in Gaza to the Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Iran has also made clear at all stages of the rigorous nuclear talks that the missile and rocket issue is not up for discussion. In addition, following the Security Council resolution, Iran’s Foreign Ministry again hastened to emphasize that the ballistic missile program in particular, and the missile program in general, have no connection at all to the talks and were never discussed during them. Iran claims that its missiles were not intended to carry nuclear warheads and are, therefore, outside the scope and jurisdiction of the Security Council’s resolution and its annexes.
Iran’s success at maintaining its missile capability while totally excluding the issue from the negotiations will have far-reaching ramifications for the Middle East. The country’s expected economic recovery, along with its growing confidence after holding its own against the world powers and continuing to build up all the elements of its nuclear and missile programs, will likely accelerate its missile, drone, and rocket development along with the transfer of completed missiles and rockets, plus the know-how to manufacture them, to the terror organizations that Iran supports all over the Middle East, as Khamenei has already made haste to affirm in his recent defiant speeches.
The rockets, drones and missiles will be a major part of Iran’s growing assistance to its proxy terror organizations and other clients in the Middle East. Iran wants to recast the region in its own image while continuing the process, already in full swing, of ejecting the United States from it. The rockets and missiles are likely to strike U.S. allies in the region (the Houthis are already firing rockets at Saudi territory) and, in the future, the more Iran’s confidence grows, to limit U.S. freedom of movement in the Persian Gulf and in the area of the Bab el-Mandeb Strait while exacting a high price for the U.S. in any military conflict with Iran.
The United States has in fact made peace with Iran’s transformation into a regional power, without calculating the dangerous long-term implications for itself and for its allies in the region.
* * *