Part II: US, Iran Disagree on Missiles

April 25, 2016
Top U.S. officials have argued that Iran’s recent missiles launches are inconsistent with U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, which bans Iran from testing ballistic missiles designed to be capable of carrying nuclear warheads. On March 24, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned two Iranian companies for supporting Tehran’s ballistic missile program. On April 1, President Barack Obama acknowledged Iran has followed the letter of the nuclear agreement, but added that “the spirit of the agreement involves Iran also sending signals to the world community and businesses that it is not going to be engaging in a range of provocative actions that might scare business off.” 
 
Iranian officials, however, have countered that its missiles are intended for defense purposes. “Secretary Kerry and the U.S. State Department know well that Iran’s missile and defense capabilities are not open to negotiation,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on April 10. He has questioned the West’s focus on Iran’s military advancements while calling attention to large arms purchases by U.S. partners in the Gulf. “Indeed, our military budget, for all the alarm raised by the West whenever we test a new system, is a small fraction of what is spent by our neighbors, which have a fraction of our territory or population to defend,” he wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post. The following are recent remarks by U.S. and Iranian officials on the March 2016 and October 2015 missile tests.

United States
 
President Barack Obama
 

“So let me say broadly that so long as Iran is carrying out its end of the bargain, we think it’s important for the world community to carry out our end of the bargain.”

“Iran, so far, has followed the letter of the agreement. But the spirit of the agreement involves Iran also sending signals to the world community and businesses that it is not going to be engaging in a range of provocative actions that might scare business off. When they launched ballistic missiles with slogans calling for the destruction of Israel that makes businesses nervous. There is some geopolitical risk that is heightened when they see that taking place.
 
“If Iran continues to ship missiles to Hezbollah, that gets businesses nervous.  And so part of what I hope happens is we have a responsibility to provide clarity about the rules that govern so that Iran can, in fact, benefit, the Iranian people can benefit from an improved economic situation. But Iran has to understand what every country in the world understands, which is businesses want to go where they feel safe, where they don't see massive controversy, where they can be confident that transactions are going to operate normally. And that's an adjustment that Iran is going to have to make as well.”
April 1, 2016, in a press conference
 
 

Secretary of State John Kerry
 
“[The U.S. and its partners are] prepared to work on a new arrangement to find a peaceful solution to these issues [ballistic missile tests].”
April 7, 2016 in the press
 
 
State Department Under Secretary for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon
 
“I believe it [the missile tests] violated the intent of [U.N. Security Council Resolution] 2231.”
 
“Iran is intent on pursuing a ballistic missile program… It sees it not only as part of its larger strategic weapons program, but it also plays a larger political role in Iran, especially in the aftermath of the JCPOA.”
April 5, 2016 in a Senate hearing

Admiral Bill Gortney, commander of the U.S. Northern Command
 
“Iran’s continuing pursuit of long-range missile capabilities and ballistic missile and space launch programs, in defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions, remains a serious concern,”
April 14, 2016 in a prepared statement for a House hearing
 
Iran
 
Foreign Minister Javad Zarif
 
“The missile tests are our right. We have made it very clear that these will not be used other than in self-defense. They’re not designed to be capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
 
“What do you expect, Iran to lie dead? You've covered the Iran-Iraq war, you remember missiles pouring on Iranian cities with chemical weapons. You remember we didn't have any to defend ourselves. Let's not re-open that chapter. We do not want offensive weapons to be used in an offensive way. We have said that we will never use them other than in self-defense. I have challenged people to make the same statement. Everybody who is accusing Iran of provocation because of our missile tests should make the simple statement that I have made, our Revolutionary Guard commanders have made—that Iran will never attack any other country. Pure and simple. By the way, that's the legal obligation of every country, to say that.
 
“Here I think you owe us. U.S. planes were giving Saddam Hussein intelligence to hit our civilians with chemical weapons. We don't owe anybody anything on defense.”
— April 21, 2016, in an interview with The New Yorker
 
“During the intensive negotiations over complex issues surrounding Iran’s nuclear energy program, my country insisted at every turn that our defenses were not on the table.”
“It is against this backdrop that we develop and test our indigenous defensive capabilities. We have no other choice, as we continue to face major hurdles in fulfilling our military hardware needs from abroad, even as our neighbors procure such hardware in mind-boggling quantities. Indeed, our military budget, for all the alarm raised by the West whenever we test a new system, is a small fraction of what is spent by our neighbors, which have a fraction of our territory or population to defend.”
April 20, 2016, in an op-ed in The Washington Post
 
“Secretary Kerry and the U.S. State Department know well that Iran’s missile and defense capabilities are not open to negotiation."
“There would be no JCPOA for defense issues.”
April 10, 2016, in a meeting with the Estonian foreign minister
 
“The US needs to view regional issues more seriously than raise baseless and threadbare allegations against Iran…Mr. Kerry should ask US allies where the Islamic State’s arms come from.”
April 10, 2016, in response to Sec. Kerry’s comments on Iran’s ballistic missile program

Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Major General Hassan Firouzabadi
 
“We studied the details of the nuclear agreement and didn’t see anything but its text and don’t have any information about its spirit.”
“Therefore, the US arrogant expectations and excessive demands are ungrounded and unacceptable and no one in the Islamic Republic of Iran cares about them.”
April 5, 2016, according to the press
 
Deputy Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Brigadier General Massoud Jazayeri
 
“The U.S calculations about the Islamic Republic and the Iranian nation are fully incorrect.”
“The White House should know that defense capacities and missile power, especially at the present juncture where plots and threats are galore, is among the Iranian nation's redlines and a backup for the country's national security and we don’t allow anyone to violate it.”
 April 4, 2016, according to the press
 
Deputy Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp Hossein Salami
 
“The US is not qualified to make comments about our defense power,”
“Our missile capabilities will never be negotiated or compromised.”
April 9, 2016, in the press