United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Anti-Iran Moves in Congress

Since late 2015, U.S. lawmakers have introduced more than a dozen legislative measures against Iran. Most have yet to pass the House or Senate, and the bills largely target areas outside the scope of the nuclear deal, such as ballistic missiles, terrorism, and human rights. But President Obama has promised to veto legislation – like the Iran Terror Finance Transparency Act – that the administration believes could potentially derail the deal.
Congress has long sought to establish greater oversight of the nuclear deal. In May 2015, lawmakers overwhelmingly passed legislation sponsored by Bob Corker (R-TN) that required Congress to review and vote on the agreement. The deal came to a vote in September 2015. But Congress ultimately failed to block it, as Senate Democrats filibustered a resolution of disapproval and prevented it from coming to a vote. The following is a rundown of Congressional actions on Iran since late 2015.
Amendment to the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016 (H.R.2028)
Status: Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) filed the amendment to the energy and water bill on April 25, 2016. On April 27, the Senate voted 50-46 against ending debate on the bill with the amendment, considered by many Democrats to be a "poison pill."
Content: Cotton’s amendment would prohibit the purchase of heavy water from Iran. He proposed the amendment three days after the U.S. Department of Energy announced it would buy 32 metric tonnes of heavy water from Iran. The Islamic Republic is required to reduce its stockpile of heavy water under the nuclear deal, which it can do by selling or disposing of the material.
On April 26, Senator Cotton released the following statement related to the heavy water purchase: "The Obama Administration stated that this purchase is a one-time deal and the United States will not become a repeat customer of Iran's over-production of heavy water. Regrettably, it's become difficult to separate fact from fiction when it comes to President Obama sidling up to Iran. It seems the president will go to any lengths to protect his nuclear deal. This amendment would simply hold his Administration to its promise by ensuring that taxpayer dollars cannot be used again for the same purpose. We've given the terror-sponsoring Iranian regime enough concessions at the risk of our security; we should not further subsidize its enrichment activity by making repeated purchases of this material."
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that “We’ve made clear our commitment to a principle that ideologically motivated policy riders are not appropriate for appropriations bills.” He indicated that President Obama would veto the bill if it were passed with Cotton's amendment.
The U.S. Financial System Protection Act (H.R. 4992)
Status: The bill was introduced in the House by Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) on April 19, 2016. 
Content: The bill codifies regulations around financial transactions involving Iran and restricts the use of the U.S. dollar in facilitating trade with Iran - including both direct dollar transactions and workarounds.
No Dollars for Iran Act (H.R. 4898) 
Status: The bill was introduced by Representative David Trott (R-MI) on April 11, 2016 and referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. It is cosponsored by Representatives Randy K. Weber (R-TX) and Dan Benishek (R-MI). 
Content: The bill prohibits the Department of Treasury from issuing licenses permitting dollar clearing outside of the U.S. for transactions directly or indirectly involving or benefitting the Government of Iran or Iranian persons.
Preventing Iran’s Access to United States Dollars Act of 2016 (S. 2752) 
Status: The bill, sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), was introduced in the Senate on April 6, 2016 and referred to the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs committee on the same day.  It is co-sponsored by Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL), Kelly Ayotte (R-HN), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Shelley Capito (R-WV), and David Perdue (R-GA).  
Content: The bill prohibits the Government of Iran or Iranian persons from certain financial transactions involving U.S. dollars, and proposes sanctions in the event that those transactions are facilitated. It specifies that the President cannot issue a license permitting an offshore U.S. dollar clearing system or provide U.S. dollars for any offshore U.S. dollar clearing system for transactions that involve Iran. President Obama has denied having plans to facilitate these kinds of transactions with Iran. 
Iran Cyber Sanctions Act of 2016 (S. 2756) 
Status: The bill was introduced on April 6, 2016 by Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD) and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.  
Content: The bill requires the president to report to Congress any activities conducted by Iranian persons undermining U.S. cybersecurity. In addition, the president would be required to submit the names of these individuals to the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Specially Designated Nationals List, which blocks individuals from doing business with U.S. individuals and freezes their assets within U.S. jurisdiction. If the president chooses to not include a name on this list, s/he must report to Congress why the individual was not included. 
Iran Financial System Access Limitation Act of 2016 (S. 2757) 
Status: The bill was introduced on April 6, 2016 by Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. 
Content: The bill prohibits granting Iran access to U.S. dollars. It proposes sanctions for any foreign financial institutions that facilitate such arrangements. It also prohibits the president from issuing licenses to offshore dollar clearing entities that would conduct transactions with Iran in U.S. dollars, and requires the president to block all property or property interests in the U.S. of institutions engaging in the aforementioned behavior. In addition, a U.S. person may not process any transfer of funds to or from Iran in a U-turn transaction.  
Iran Ballistic Missile Sanctions Act of 2016 (S.2725 and H.R. 4815)
Status: The bill was introduced in the Senate on March 17, 2016 by Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and 11 other Republican Senators. On March 21, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) and three other Republican co-sponsors introduced an identical bill in the House. 
Content: The bill imposes new sanctions against anyone that knowingly aids Iran’s ballistic missile program, requires new sanctions against entities owned 25 percent or more by Iran’s key ballistic missile organizations, and requires the president to certify that perople listed in U.N. Security Council Resolutions are not engaged in activities related to ballistic missiles. It also imposes sanctions on persons involved in sectors of Iran’s economy that support, directly or indirectly, Iran’s ballistic program.

Iran Terrorism and Human Rights Sanctions Act of 2016 (S.2726)
Status: The bill was introduced in the Senate on March 17, 2016 by Mark Kirk (R-IL) and 15 other Republican Senators. It was read twice and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.
Content: The bill imposes new sanctions on the IRGC and Mahan Air, codifies restrictions on Iran’s access to the U.S. financial system, and imposes new sanctions on Iran for its human rights abuses. 
The Iran Terror Finance Transparency Act (H.R.3662)
Status: The bill, sponsored by Steve Russell (R-OK) and 20 other Republicans, was introduced in the House on Oct. 1, 2015. The House voted and passed the legislation on Jan. 13, 2016, but Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) nullified the vote since 137 representatives were not present. A second vote was held on February 2, which passed the House with a vote of 246-181. A total of 243 Republicans and three Democrats voted in favor, and 181 Democrats voted against. On February 3, the bill was referred to the Senate Banking Committee.
Content: The legislation prohibits removing sanctions on certain entities until the president confirms that they have no link to ballistic missiles or terrorism. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) supported the legislation, arguing that “This bill is about ensuring that the president keeps his promise.” But Foreign Affairs Committee member Eliot Engel (D-NY), who opposed the nuclear deal, argued that the legislation would instead “establish an impossible standard for the president.” President Obama has threatened to veto the bill, fearing that it could disrupt implementation of the nuclear deal.
IRGC Terrorist Sanctions Act of 2015 (H.R. 3693)
Status: The bill was introduced in the House on Feb. 12, 2016 by Ted Poe (R-TX).
Content: The bill directs the Department of the Treasury to report to Congres on whether the IRGC should be considered a terrorist organization and whether an organization with IRGC members on the board of directors should be considered an entity controlled by the Iranian government. 
North Korea and Iran Sanctions Act (S.2485)
Status: The bill was introduced in the Senate on Feb. 3, 2016 by John Thune (R-SD) and four other Republican cosponsors. 
Content: This bill requires the President to reinstate all sanctions against Iran that were waived or suspended as part of the final nuclear deal if the Director of National Intelligence certifies that Iran has acquired, or is attempting to acquire, nuclear weapons technology from North Korea.
Reaffirming the right for the United States to use all available options, including the use of military force, to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon (H.Res.600)
Status: Seth Moulton (D-MA), Jospeh Kennedy (D-MA), Reid Ribble (R-WI), and two others introduced the resolution in the House on Feb. 3, 2016.
Content: It reaffirms the right to use military force to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, emphasizing that the nuclear deal does not preclude additional sanctions on Iran for terrorism, ballistic missile, or human rights violations.
A bill to prohibit the use of funds to make payments to Iran relating to the settlement of claims brought before the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal until Iran has paid certain compensatory damages awarded to United States persons by United States courts (S. 2452) 
Status: The bill was introduced by Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) on January 20, 2016. It is cosponsored by Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Pat Toomey (R-PA), David Perdue (R-GA), and John Thune (R-SD). It was referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. 
Content: The bill prevents the United States from making any payment to Iran relating to the settlement of any claim before the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal, until Iran pays certain compensatory damages awarded by federal or state court judgments relating to international acts of terrorism carried out by Iran. 
The Zero Tolerance for Terror Act (H.R.4333), the Iran Ballistic Missile Prevention and Sanctions Act of 2016 (H.R.4342), and other actions on ballistic missiles
Status: Joseph Kennedy (D-MA), Ted Deutch (D-FL), and five other lawmakers introduced the Zero Tolerance for Terror Act in the House on January 6. Kennedy, along with John Delaney (D-MD) and 11 other lawmakers, also introduced the Iran Ballistic Missile Prevention and Sanctions Act of 2016 on January 7.
Content: Both pieces of legislation called on the U.S. Treasury to impose sanctions on Iran for ballistic missile activities. They were part of a larger push by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to urge President Obama to take action after alleged Iranian ballistic missiles launches in October and November 2015. Ballistic missiles restrictions are not included in the final nuclear deal, but a 2010 U.N. Security Council resolution prohibits Iran from testing ballistic missiles.
“Condemnations of Iran's blatant disregard for its international obligations are not enough,” wrote Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and 35 other Republican senators in December 2015. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) organized a similar letter signed by 20 other Democrats. “If there are no consequences for this violation, Iran’s leaders will certainly also question the willingness of the international community to respond to violations of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and UN Security Council Resolution 2231,” it said.
New ballistic missile sanctions were originally set to go into effect on Dec. 30, 2015, but the Obama administration delayed them for two weeks. Iranian officials warned that the supreme leader would view new sanctions as a violation of the nuclear deal, but U.S. officials denied that Iran’s defiance played a part in the delay. Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said that finalizing sanctions “is not something that we would negotiate with the Iranian government.” Behind the scenes, Secretary of State John Kerry was in the midst of negotiating a prisoner swap with Iran that resulted in the release of four Americans. On January 17 – right after the nuclear deal was implemented – the U.S. Treasury imposed sanctions on 11 individuals and entities for supporting Iran’s ballistic missile program.
Click here for more information
The Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 (H.R.158)
Status: Candace Miller (R-MI) and Michael McCaul (R-TX) introduced the bill in the House on Jan. 6, 2015. It was amended and passed on Dec. 8, 2015 with a vote of 407-19 as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act. The next day, the bill was received in the Senate.
Content: The bill was proposed by Congress to make it more difficult for terrorists who hold E.U. or other citizenships to enter the United States. Citizens of 38 countries, including many E.U. states, do not need visas to travel to the United States. But the new measure bars citizens of those countries who are also dual nationals of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Sudan from participating in the program. House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul said on December 22 that “Our message to them [Iran] is clear: as long as you fuel networks of terror, individuals connected to your country will not be allowed to enter ours without closer scrutiny.”
Iranian officials condemned the bill. “This visa-waiver thing is absurd,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told The New Yorker. “Has anybody in the West been targeted by any Iranian national, anybody of Iranian origin, or anyone travelling to Iran?” Secretary of State John Kerry, however, noted that the Obama administration can waive the visa requirements so as not to “interfere with the legitimate business interest of Iran.”  
Although the bill passed the House with a bipartisan majority, some lawmakers opposed the bill on the grounds that it could have negative consequences for journalists and aid workers. Barbara Lee (D-CA) argued that the legislation would “allow for the arbitrary discrimination of individuals based on their nationality.”
Click here for more information
Urging the President and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to submit to Congress the text of all side agreements entered into between the IAEA and Iran with respect to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (H.R.553)
Status: Co-sponsored by Ryan Zinke (R-MT) and 30 other representatives, the bill was introduced in the House on Dec. 3, 2015.
Content: The bill requires Congress to receive the text of “side agreements” between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), as a condition for the Congress to approve funding for the agency. In July 2015, IAEA chief Yukiya Amano and Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Ali Akbar Salehi agreed on a road map to resolve “past and present outstanding issues” on Iran’s nuclear program. The agreement – which was not made public – culminated in a final report released in December 2015.
Some U.S. lawmakers have insisted that Congress have access to the full text of the agreement between Iran and the IAEA. “Congress has the constitutional responsibility to control the power of the purse,” Zinke said in December 2015. “If we are expected to foot the bill for these side deals, we should know what measures are included in them.”

Iran Policy Oversight Act of 2015 (S.2119)
Status: The bill was introduced in the Senate on Oct. 1, 2015, sponsored by Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and seven other Democrats.
Content: The legislation requires the President to report to Congress every 180 days on two topics: Iranian nuclear research and development, and how Iran uses funds received as part of sanctions relief.
Ending Iran's Nuclear Weapon Program Before Sanctions Relief Act of 2015 (S.2429 and H.R.4344)
Status: The bill was introduced in the Senate on Dec. 18, 2015 by Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and 12 other Republicans, and in the House on Jan. 7, 2016 by Mike Pompeo (R-KS), Peter Roskam (R-IL), and two other Republicans.
Content: It requires the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to submit a report to Congress on the military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program. It also calls for delaying sanctions relief until 90 days after the report is submitted, or once the DNI, State Department, Department of Energy, and Department of Defense certify that Iran has ceased all military dimensions of its nuclear activities.
Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps Sanctions Implementation and Review Act (H.R.4312)
Status: The bill was introduced on Dec. 18, 2015, by Brad Sherman (D-CA) and five other Democrats.
Content: The legislation proposes amendments to the Iran Threat Reduction and Syrian Human Rights Act of 2012, which would prohibit transactions with foreigners who knowingly engage in deals with the Revolutionary Guards or other sanctioned entities if the property involved is linked to the United States.
Quarantining the Ayatollah's State-Sponsored Aggression and Militancy (QASSAM) Act (H.R.4258)
Status: The bill was introduced in the House on Dec. 15, 2015 by Peter Roskam (R-IL) and three other Republicans.
Content: It aims to impose sanctions on any entity – either within the United States or owned by an American – if the Revolutionary Guards own at least 20 percent of it.

IRGC Sanctions Act (H.R.4257)
Status: The bill was introduced on Dec. 15, 2015 by Devin Nunes (R-CA) and 19 other Republicans.
Content: It seeks to amend three existing laws to require congressional approval to remove a country as a state sponsor of terrorism.
IRGC Terrorist Designation Act (H.R.3646 and S.2094)
Status: The bill was introduced in the House on Sept. 29, 2015 by Michael McCaul (R-TX) and 13 other lawmakers and in the Senate by Ted Cruz (R-TX).
Content: It calls upon the State Department to designate the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization.
Justice for Victims of Iranian Terrorism Act (H.R.3457 and S.2086)
Status: The bill was introduced in the House on Sept. 9, 2015 by Patrick Meehan (R-PA) and two other Republicans and in the Senate on Sept. 28, 2015 by Pat Toomey (R-PA) and two other Republicans. It passed the House by a vote of 251-173 on Oct. 1, 2015.
Content: It calls for preventing sanctions relief until Iran addresses judgments in the cases of U.S. victims of Iran-backed terror groups.

Commission to Verify Iranian Nuclear Compliance Act (H.R. 3741)
Status: The bill was introduced in the House on Oct. 9, 2015, by Gerald Connolly (D-VA) and nine other cosponsors.
Content: The bill establishes a commission to verify Iran's compliance with the final nuclear deal and assess the verification and safeguards aspects of the agreement. 

Iran Sanctions Relief Oversight Act of 2015 (S.1682)
Status: Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) introduced the bill in the Senate on June 25, 2015, originally pushing to add it as an amendment to the 2016 defense budget. The bill was referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. 
Content: The bill extends the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 (ISA), which targets Iran’s nuclear program, ballistic missiles, and human rights violations, through Dec. 31, 2026. The ISA is currently set to expire in December 2016. The bill pitched by Kirk and Menendez has not progressed beyond the Senate Banking Committee, but other lawmakers have also proposed extending ISA. In late January 2016, after Implementation Day, Bob Corker (R-TN) began preparing three pieces of legislation against Iran – one of which was the reauthorization of ISA. Corker argued that renewing ISA is essential for the possibility of “snap back” sanctions if Iran violates the nuclear deal, but the administration has urged Congress to delay renewing the legislation until closer to its expiration date. 
State Sanctions Against Iranian Terrorism Act (H.R.4448)
Status: The bill was introduced in the House on March 2, 2015 by Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and referred to the House Committee on Financial Services.
Content: The bill amends the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010, which allows states to limit or prohibit individuals from investing in Iran’s energy sector. The amendment would restrict investment in all business enterprises in Iran, not just those related to the energy sector, and would lower the investment limit from $20 million to $10 million.   
This post has been updated.


Zarif on Nuclear Deal, US Relations

Robin Wright (for The New Yorker)

Three months after Iran dismantled large parts of its nuclear program, in compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—the international nuclear deal—the country’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, declared last week in New York that the United States is falling seriously short of its commitments. … In an interview last week, Zarif discussed various sticking points in relations between Washington and Tehran. 

Click here to read the interview on The New Yorker website.

Part I: Are Iran’s Missiles a Threat?

Michael Elleman
Iran test-fired several ballistic missiles in March 2016 and one in October 2015. Why? What is Iran’s goal? Is there any significance to the timing?
Ballistic missiles have been a key pillar of Iran’s overall defense and deterrence strategy since its 1980-1988 war with Iraq. For Tehran, missiles provide the capacity to strike targets throughout the region, something its air forces would struggle to achieve. But while ballistic missiles serve the deterrence mission by threatening their use before or during a military conflict, they are often featured in Iran’s rhetoric when seeking to intimidate or coerce its regional rivals. As a consequence, ballistic missiles are heralded by the leadership, prominently displayed in military parades, and featured during military exercises. Test launches are often broadcast on state-owned television. 
It is therefore no surprise that Iran unveiled its newest missile, the Emad, in October 2015, and fired a few Shahab-3 missiles shortly after the Great Prophet war games in March 2016. It also showcased on state-television a network of tunnels used to protect its missile forces. The Shahab-3 missiles and the tunnels have been around for more than a decade, so Iran revealed no new capabilities in 2016. 
The Emad, tested in 2015, is a modified version of the medium-range Ghadr missile. The modification includes a new nosecone, outfitted with four-small winglets at the base of the warhead. Presumably, the winglets are designed to steer the warhead during re-entry into the atmosphere with the purpose of bettering accuracy. Mastering the technologies needed to make the Emad missile capable of delivering a warhead to a specified target with precision will take many years, possibly 10 or more. Whether Iran has ambitious plans to perfect this capability, or the emergence of a missile seemingly designed for conventional missions, not nuclear ones, is unclear, though it seems likely both objectives serve Tehran’s needs.
It is interesting to note that the Emad was the first medium-range missile Iran has publically tested since 2013. Indeed, Iran has launched, on average, between two and three medium-range missiles every year since 2006, except in 2014, when no missiles were tested. Tehran may have opted to not undertake potentially provocative action during the nuclear negotiations, which would explain the hiatus in testing. The resumption of flight tests is likely to represent a return to past practices. 
What are the capabilities and range of these missiles?
Iran maintains the largest and most wide-ranging ballistic missile arsenal in the region.  With roughly 200-300 Shahab-1 and -2 missiles (Scud-B and –C, respectively), Tehran can range targets as far as 500 km (310 miles). This places all of Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and oil-rich Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia within reach. Iran has converted some of its Shahab-2 missiles into Qiam missiles. The Qiam uses a detachable warhead, which reduces its vulnerability to the missile defenses deployed in the region.
Iran also possesses up to 100 Shahab-3 and Ghadr missiles, both of which are derived the Nodongs imported from North Korea. Dissatisfied with the performance of the Shahab-3/Nodong missiles that were limited to a range of about 1,000 km (620 miles), Iranian engineers replaced the steel airframe with a lighter-weight, aluminum-alloy structure, lengthened the propellant tanks, reduced the warhead mass and rearranged some internal components to extend the missile’s reach to 1,600 km (just under 1,000 miles). The modified version is called Ghadr.  

Shahab-3 by JamesMartinCNS on Sketchfab

The Shahab and Ghadr missiles are all liquid-fueled systems. Iran is developing a two-stage, medium-range missile based on solid propellant. The Sajjil-2 has an estimated range of 2,000 km (1,240 miles), though it has yet to reach operational status. The Sajjil-2 has not be tested since 2011, and appears to have encountered technical difficulties, though it is unclear precisely what is troubling the development efforts.
These Shahab, Qiam, Ghadr and Sajjil-2 systems lack the accuracy needed to be militarily decisive when armed with conventional warheads. They could sow terror and potentially weaken the resolve of states in the region if used against cities and critical infrastructure. These missiles could also disrupt, though not halt operations at key military facilities, such as airfields. Incorporating satellite-guidance systems (e.g. Global Positioning Satellite, or GPS, receivers) would improve accuracy, but by now more than about 25 percent, not enough to enhance the military effectiveness of the missiles.
Iran fields a family of increasingly accurate, heavy-artillery rockets with ranges of up to 250-300 km (155-190 miles). The Fateh-110, for example, flies on a trajectory that remains within the earth’s atmosphere during its entire flight. Small winglets mounted just below the warhead section can thus steer the rocket to its target with greater precision. In principle, the Fateh-110, or its variants, Khalij-Fars and Hormuz, could be accurate enough to strike point-targets reliably. However, in practice, there is little evidence that these rockets have achieved the design goal. This will likely change as Iran continues its efforts to enhance their performance and reliability. 
The Fateh-110 range capacity (roughly 210 km, or 160 miles) is not enough to reach across the Gulf, though it is capable of hitting Kuwait or the eastern emirates of the UAE. Consequently, Iran is developing a 300-km (190 mile) version, called Fateh-313. The status of this effort is not known.
The Fateh rockets, like the Shahab, Qiam and Ghadr missiles are all inherently capable of delivering a nuclear payload, if Iran were to acquire an atomic weapon. However, size and weight restrictions would make fitting a nuclear warhead onto the Fateh rockets more challenging. The international community broadly defines “nuclear capable” as any system that can deliver a 500 kg payload to 300 km, which is coincidentally the threshold limits used by the Missile Technology Control Regime, or MTCR.

What countries would be within range? Do these missile tests indicate a greater threat to these countries?
Iran’s missiles are capable of reaching targets throughout the Gulf region, all of the Levant, including Israel, Turkey and portions of the south eastern corridor of Europe. The missiles recently tested, including the Emad, do not extend Iran’s reach beyond the capabilities it possessed a decade ago. Iranian officials are on record insisting that the country has no requirement to build missiles that fly further than 2,000 km (1,240 miles). It remains to be seen if Iran will adhere to these declared limitations.
What defenses do U.S. allies and partners in the region have to counter Iran?
The United States has deployed at least six Patriot PAC-3 missile-defense batteries to the Gulf. Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have their own Patriot capabilities, while Qatar is in the process of purchasing Patriot. The UAE has procured two Theater High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) units, with the first scheduled to be operational in late 2016.  Qatar, and possibly Saudi Arabia have discussed the purchase of THAAD as well.  The U.S. Navy has Aegis, ballistic-missile defense capable, ships patrolling in the Gulf.
Patriot systems provide defense against short- and medium-range missiles and can protect high-value assets. THAAD, and Aegis, intercept missiles above the atmosphere, and can defend large areas against short-, medium- and intermediate-range missiles.   When operated together, Patriot and THAAD provide two-layers of defense, which substantially enhances defense performance.
The United States and its Gulf partners are working together to integrate the many missile defense components deployed throughout the region. Progress has been slower than desired, though joint efforts to create a Shared Ballistic Missile Early Warning System, as outlined at the U.S.-GCC Summit at Camp David in 2015, are encouraging.
How do Iran’s offensive and defensive capabilities compare with those of its neighbors?
The United States and the Gulf states each have advanced and capable air forces with experience operating together, in both military exercises and during conflict. Iran’s antiquated air force would find it difficult to generate the number of sorties to have much of an impact on U.S. and Gulf state operations. The relative weakness of Iran’s air force severely limits its capacity to strike targets on the Arabian Peninsula, leaving Tehran dependent upon ballistic missiles for extra-territorial attacks.
Iran’s ground-based air defenses, however, are improving. The acquisition of the S-300 air-defense system from Russia will significantly improve Iran’s defensive capabilities.  

How has Iran’s missile program evolved in recent years? What is the status of Iran’s intercontinental ballistic missile program?
During the past decade, Iran has focused on improving the accuracy and reliability of its missiles, with little attention to increasing range. The Fateh-110 program, and the recent unveiling of the Emad missile are consistent with this focus on enhancing the military potential of its missile forces. There is no credible evidence to suggest that Iran is developing an intercontinental-ballistic missile, or ICBM. 
Iran, however, is developing a satellite-launch capability. The Simorgh rocket, which Iran reportedly tested in April 2016, has a first stage large and powerful enough to serve as a springboard for an ICBM. An ICBM based on Simorgh technology would be very large and cumbersome to deploy as a military system. If Iran were to transform its Simorgh into an ICBM, it would take a handful of years, and would not likely become operational before 2020. No country has ever converted a liquid-fuelled satellite launcher into a long-range missile, primarily because the operational requirements diverge enough to make the transformation impractical. 
Michael Elleman, a consulting senior fellow for missile defence at the International Institute for Strategic Studies and a former U.N. weapons inspector, is co-author of “Iran's Ballistic Missile Capabilities: A Net Assessment.”

Click here to read Elleman’s chapter on Iran’s ballistic missile program.  


Click here for recent remarks by U.S. and Iranian officials on the missile tests.



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Part II: US, Iran Disagree on Missiles

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
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


Kerry and Zarif on Nuclear Deal Disputes

On April 22, Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif held a closed-door meeting in New York to discuss disagreements that have emerged during the implementation of the nuclear deal. Iranian officials have alleged that the United States is not fulfilling its obligations under the deal since Iran still faces financial restrictions that limit sanctions relief. Secretary Kerry, however, has emphasized that the United States is not “standing in the way” of companies seeking to do legitimate business in Iran. The following are Kerry’s and Zarif’s remarks to the press before their meeting on April 22.

Kerry and Zarif


SECRETARY KERRY:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Let me just say a few words, if I can.  I’m very pleased to be meeting with Foreign Minister Zarif today to continue our discussions about the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action implementation.  We had a very productive meeting earlier in the week.  We exchanged a lot of thoughts.  We talked about some challenges, and so I think we both decided that it was important to do some homework.  And we’ve come back today to follow up on that conversation.

First, I want to say something about one of the issues that we have been discussing.  As President Obama has said, as Secretary Jack Lew has said, and as I have said, and we have said it repeatedly, the United States is not standing in the way and will not stand in the way of business that is permitted with Iran since the JCPOA took effect.  And I want to emphasize we lifted our nuclear-related sanctions, as we committed to do, and there are now opportunities for foreign banks to do business with Iran. 
Unfortunately, there seems to be some confusion among some foreign banks, and we want to try to clarify that as much as we can.  Among the nuclear-related sanctions that were lifted were those that prevented Iran from engaging with non-U.S. banks, including getting access to Iran’s restricted funds that were previously held overseas. 
Now, we have no objection – I want to make this clear.  We have no objection and we do not stand in the way of foreign banks engaging with Iranian banks and companies, obviously as long as those banks and companies are not on our sanctions list for non-nuclear reasons.  But the nuclear sanctions permitted non-U.S. banks to engage with business activity and companies in Iran, and it allows them to provide access to funds and financing, and it allows Iran, importantly, to have access to its own funds. 
We also – I want to say that we understand that banks and businesses have complicated business decisions to make, and they have to make them.  But that is why the State and the Treasury Department have been actively engaged with partner governments and the private sector in order to clarify those sanctions that have been lifted.  And if banks or any company has any question about this, we’re happy to answer those questions.  They shouldn’t just assume that activities that were not permitted before the JCPOA are not permitted at this point in time.  And so they shouldn’t also assume that activities still prohibited by the primary embargo are also prohibited for foreign actors.  That’s not the way that works.
So when in doubt – my message: when in doubt, ask. 
Now, we recognize it is going to take some time for companies to feel confident in reengaging with Iran, and in all fairness, that is due to concerns other than sanctions.  And Iran, as we have said in a candid conversation, also has a certain amount it needs to do to modernize its own banking system to begin to do things to – that it hadn’t done during the years that it was operating under sanctions, and that would facilitate this process. 
But I want to make clear the United States is committed to doing our part as we believe it is in our interest to ensure that the JCPOA, the nuclear agreement that we reached, that it is in fact working for all participants.  And just as we have upheld our commitments, we’re going to continue to work with Iran to verify that they uphold theirs also.  It is mutuality that was created in this, and it’s important that we make sure there is mutuality in its implementation.
FOREIGN MINISTER ZARIF:  Thank you, Secretary Kerry.  I think what is important for everybody to understand is that the JCPOA was a balanced agreement, and Iran has implemented its part of the bargain and we hope that with this statement by Secretary Kerry and other steps that were taken by the United State, now we will see serious implementation of all JCPOA benefits that Iran should derive from this agreement so that we can ensure that agreement is a way for addressing international problems, that sanctions and pressure won’t resolve international problems, but negotiations, talks, dialogue in fact are the way to address international problems.
We hope that the statement made today by Secretary Kerry will begin to open the difficult path that has been closed because of concerns that banks had about the U.S. approach towards implementation of the commitments under the JCPOA.  We will continue to have differences with the United States.  Our differences are very serious in a good number of areas.  We will – but we have decided together with P5+1 to address this issue, and we want to show that P5+1 and Iran have been able to resolve a very serious, difficult issue through negotiations, and I believe we should take the necessary steps in that regard.  And I hope that by – through serious action so that the Iranian people can see the benefits of implementation of JCPOA, we can move forward with the long-term implications for this very important agreement, which should create the foundations and not the ceilings for resolution of international issues.  Thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY:  The foreign minister just mentioned one thing I just want to make clear so we’re both on – addressing it.  The foreign minister is correct; there are differences and some of them are obviously serious differences.  Those have to be the subject of future discussion.  But it’s important for people to understand that an agreement is an agreement, and we need to separate, even as we are working to resolve those other differences.  And nothing that I said diminishes the United States commitment to helping to resolve those differences and certainly to continue to work for the peace and stability of the region.  Thank you.

Photo Credits: U.S. Department of State via Flickr Commons


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