US Reviewing Alleged Iran Missile Test

December 9, 2015
On December 8, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said that Washington is “conducting a serious review” of reports that Tehran launched a ballistic missile in November. A 2010 U.N. Security Council resolution prohibits Iran from testing ballistic missiles. State Department Spokesperson John Kirby told reporters that the United States would not be “bashful” about dealing with the violation at the United Nations if the reports are confirmed. Several members of Congress have issued statements and written letters urging President Obama to hold Iran accountable.  
 
A Western diplomatic source said Iran tested a Ghadr-110 missile near the port city of Chabahar on November 21, according to Reuters. The medium range missile is a spinoff of the Shahab-3, which is based on a North Korean missile. Tehran began flight tests of the Ghadr in 2004, but it has not confirmed the November test. Iran has the largest and most diverse ballistic arsenal in the Middle East, mostly acquired from foreign sources.
 
In October, Britain, France and the United States called on the U.N. Security Council to take action over Iran’s test launch of a different missile they said was “inherently capable of delivering a nuclear weapon.” Tehran confirmed that it fired a medium-range Emad ballistic missile. But Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif countered that none of his country’s missiles were designed to carry a nuclear weapon. The following are excerpted remarks by U.S. officials on the alleged November test and reactions from lawmakers.
 
State Department Spokesperson John Kirby
 
We’re conducting a serious review of this reported incident. I don’t – again, I don’t have any further details on it. I don’t want to get ahead of the work of the people that are looking at this. But if the reports are confirmed and if there is a violation of any relevant UN Security Council resolution, then we’re going to take the appropriate actions, as we’ve proven that we’re capable of doing in the past.”
 
What the Secretary had in mind when he worked on the Iran deal was that Iran would be cut off from being able to develop a nuclear weapon. That and that alone was the focus of the deal and is now the focus of the JCPOA, which we obviously want to see get implemented. It wasn’t tied to anything else. And the Secretary said at the time and he has said since in congressional testimony and publicly that we never expected Iran would change – automatically change its behavior as a result of this deal. And should they get to implementation, and we believe eventually they will, that’s still not going to – we don’t believe is going to have some sort of dramatic effect on their geopolitical calculus and the things that they’re capable and obviously willing to do in the region that are destabilizing, which is why we’re going to continue to monitor them, and it’s why we have a robust military presence in the region, and it’s why we still have and will remain capable of having unilateral sanctions of our own to deal with the kinds of destabilizing things that Iran’s capable of, to include a ballistic missile program.
 
Now, that itself – ballistic missile tests – are not a violation of the JCPOA. They may, in fact, be a violation of existing Security Council resolutions and may in fact be violations of Security Council resolutions that will go into effect post implementation. So there’s lots of ways for the international community to try to check this behavior, as well as the United States unilaterally, and we’re going to continue to focus on that.”
 
“We’re doing a serious review of it [the report], and if it’s confirmed, then we’ve got – as we have in the past, we have tools at our disposal to deal with it through the UN, and we’re not going to be bashful about doing that.”
 
Entities involved in launches like the one conducted on the 10th of October have already been designated under existing sanctions, which we’re going to continue to fully enforce going forward. These entities are not going to be let off the hook for their involvement in Iran’s ballistic missile program.
 
“In addition, on the 21st of October, we condemned the violation and submitted a joint report with France, Germany, and the UK to the UN Security Council Iran Sanctions Committee. We called on the committee, with the support of the independent UN panel of experts, to review this matter quickly and recommend appropriate action.
 
“On the 24th of November, together with the UK and France, we also proposed that the committee push Iran for a formal explanation. And we’re going to continue to work with our partners in order to demonstrate a meaningful response to this.
 
“We’re also going to continue to press the Security Council to respond effectively to any future violations of UN Security Council resolutions. Full and robust enforcement of all relevant UN measures is and will remain critical.”
—Dec. 8, 2015, in a daily press briefing
 
Members of Congress
 
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI)
 
In July, the Obama administration reached a dangerous nuclear agreement with Iran, despite opposition from a bipartisan majority in the House. 
 
“Nevertheless, the hasn’t stopped Iran from continuing to imprison American citizens, like Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, or developing advanced weapons to attack the West. 
 
“Yesterday, we learned that Iran recently tested a medium-range ballistic missile in direct violation of two United Nations Security Council resolutions. In fact, the nuclear agreement itself calls on Tehran to stop its ballistic missile program for at least the next eight years. 
 
“This marks the second time Iran has illegally tested a ballistic missile since the nuclear agreement was signed. And yet the response from the Obama administration has effectively been nothing. 
 
“It’s clear Iran feels immune to pursue its illicit behavior despite the so-called binding, international agreement it just signed. The administration may give the mullahs another free pass, but we will not. 
 
“This week, the House will consider bipartisan legislation to sanction the Lebanese-based terrorist group Hezbollah—an Iranian proxy responsible for hundreds of American deaths. Deal or no deal, we cannot allow Iran’s threatening activities to continue without consequence. 
—Dec. 8, 2015, via the Speaker’s Press Office 
 
Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ)
 
“What has happened as a result of Iran violating the U.N. Security Council resolutions as it relates to missile testing? Absolutely nothing. Something is wrong because the silence is so deafening.”
 
“Iran can support terror, Iran can develop its nuclear program, Iran can foment secretariat conflict across the Middle East … and yet, it will be rewarded with a multibillion dollar sanctions relief this coming year.”
—Dec. 8, 2015, in a floor statement 
 
Senator Bob Corker (R-TN)
 
“Iran violates U.N. Security Council resolutions because it knows neither this administration nor the U.N. Security Council is likely to take any action,” 
 
“Instead, the administration remains paralyzed and responds to Iran's violations with empty words of condemnation and concern. These continued violations without consequences also validate concern that all leverage will shift to Iran once sanctions are removed. If we cannot respond to a clear violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution, I have no faith that the U.N. and the Obama administration will implement any form of snapback in response to Iranian violations of the nuclear agreement. 
 
“The administration has the authority to penalize foreign individuals who engage in proliferation-related activities like ballistic missile launches,”  
 
“They have used that authority in the past, and should do so again.” 
—Dec. 8, 2015 in a press release 
 
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL)
 
Dear Mr. President,

As you know, on October 10, Iran conducted a test of a ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear weapon. Ambassador Power confirmed that the test was a "clear violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929." On October 14, we sent a letter to you asking what specific steps your administration planned to take in order to respond to this test. In that letter, we emphasized our concern that tough statements followed by inaction would further undermine U.S. national security. Almost two months later, we have not received a substantive response, and it is not clear whether your administration has taken any appropriate steps to hold Tehran accountable for its violation of its international commitments. Yesterday, not surprisingly, there were reports that Iran conducted another ballistic missile test on November 21, and we write again to ask how your administration will respond.
 
As we emphasized in our October letter, we have three major concerns about these tests. First, these ballistic missile tests further Iran's intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) program that-once fielded-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has said would serve as Tehran's "preferred method of delivering nuclear weapons..." The tests also underscore yet again Tehran's longstanding and continued willingness to ignore its obligations and demonstrate that we should not expect Iran to abide by its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Finally, the ballistic missile tests enhance Tehran's capability to target our ally Israel and U.S. military personnel in the region. In fact, recent reports suggest that the missile tested by Iran last month has a range of approximately 1,200 miles. In addition to advancing Tehran's ICBM program, that means Tehran could use this missile to threaten thousands of forward deployed U.S. troops, Israel, and eastern Europe.
 
The December 2, 2015, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report only heightens these concerns. According to the report on Iran's nuclear program, the IAEA assessed that "Iran conducted computer modelling of a nuclear explosive device prior to 2004 and between 2005 and 2009." This was more recent than many suspected. The IAEA report makes clear that Iran continues to hide its activities. Most disturbingly, the IAEA concluded that Tehran's activities at the Parchin military complex "seriously undermined the Agency's ability to conduct effective verification."
 
While your administration has attempted to treat Iran's ballistic missile program as separate from Iran's nuclear program, this approach does not withstand scrutiny-as DNI Clapper's testimony makes clear. Iran is developing ICBM capabilities and the sole purpose of an Iranian ICBM is to enable delivery of a nuclear weapon to the United States. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, testified that "...under no circumstances should we relieve pressure on Iran relative to ballistic missile capabilities..." Unfortunately, that is exactly one of the things that the Iran deal will accomplish.
 
In light of this, we renew our questions in our October 14, 2015, letter to you, and we reiterate our belief that a failure to hold Iran accountable to its international obligations will invite more violations from Tehran and further endanger the security of Americans and our allies. In short, we would like to know what specific steps your administration plans to take to respond Iran's two ballistic missile tests in as many months. 

Thank you for your attention to this very serious issue.
Senator Kelly Ayotte
Senator Mark Kirk
—Dec. 8, 2015, in a letter
 
Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA), Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL)
 
Dear President Obama,
 
We write to express our deep concern over Iran's launch of a long-range ballistic missile on October 11, 2015 in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1929. Iran's acquisition of such capacity threatens both the security of Israel and the interests of the United States in the region; we urge you to hold Iran accountable for this action. Additional reports this week now indicate that a second violation has taken place. According to Western officials, Iran conducted another missile test, in violation of UNSC resolutions, on November 21st.
 
We, like many of our colleagues, held differing views about the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) when it came before Congress for a vote. However, we now share a sharp focus on scrupulous verification and rigorous enforcement, both of the nuclear deal itself and of Iran's other obligations under international law. It is critically important that the United Nations Security. Council (UNSC) continue to enforce the resolutions that govern Iran's acquisition and development of missile technology, for these provisions have profound impacts on the national security interests of the United States and our allies. Should the UNSC fail to do so, the United States must take action on its own.
 
If the Government of Iran is truly progressing, in line with its JCPOA commitments, towards the day when the IAEA can reach the Broader Conclusion that all nuclear materials in the country remain in peaceful activities, then its leaders should have no need for technology capable of delivering nuclear weapons, and they should have no objection to full compliance with UNSC resolutions 1929 and 2331. The October 11th launch clearly violated UNSC Resolution 1929, which remains in effect until Implementation Day, as well as UNSC Resolution 2331, which becomes effective on Implementation Day. Both resolutions prohibit Iran from undertaking activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, "including launches using such ballistic missile technology."'
 
We urge you to call on the Security Council to condemn this violation and to sanction any entity involved in this illegal launch. If the Security Council does not act to sanction such a clear-cut violation of international law, the Administration, or Congress, must act unilaterally to impose U.S. sanctions against these entities. As we move towards implementation of the JCPOA, the response of the Security Council and the United States to this incident must establish a critical precedent: that Iran's full compliance with the JCPOA and with UN Security Council Resolutions is non-negotiable.
 
United States leadership in establishing this precedent is critical to international security, particularly to our allies in the region. Thank you for your consideration of this urgent matter.
Sincerely,
 
Ted Deutch Member of Congress
Kennedy III Member of Congress
—Dec. 8, 2015, in a letter
 
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)
 
“Nobody should be surprised that Iran is already breaking the agreement. They never intended to follow the agreement. Iran knew that. The Obama administration knew that. Israel knew that. Everyone knew it. This is about a domestic objective for the Obama administration.”
 
Iran “will continue breaking the deal, using the millions of dollars the Obama administration is trying to send them, to fund radical Islamic terrorists across the globe who will murder innocent Americans, innocent Europeans, and innocent Israelis, and to accelerate their nuclear weapons development program.”
—Dec. 10, 2015, according to the Free Beacon
 
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO)
 
“When the President was pursuing his misguided nuclear deal with Iran, many of us warned that Iran would cheat. We warned that Iran, the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, would take billions in sanctions relief while continuing to build up their arsenal, prop up the Assad regime, and arm terror groups dedicated to the destruction of Israel. Iran has done exactly that.
 
“The Obama Administration has been stunningly indifferent. Iran has violated U.N. travel sanctions by sending General Qassem Soleimani, a man responsible for the death of American troops in Iraq, on a visit to Russia. They’ve repeatedly violated U.N. resolutions prohibiting the testing of ballistic missiles, which could be topped with a nuclear warhead.
 
“The American people were told to trust that the Obama Administration could hold Iran accountable for bad behavior. Iran’s recent conduct, and the Administration’s lack of response, prove that the current U.S. policy of engagement with this murderous and deceitful regime is a dangerous farce. I have no confidence that Iran will abide by the terms of the nuclear deal reached this past summer.
 
“It’s time for the Administration to respond to Iranian belligerence. Inaction is no longer an option.”
—Dec. 8, 2015, in a statement
 
Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ)
 
“Despite the opposition of the American people and the majority of Congress, President Obama signed a dangerous nuclear deal with Iran. As predicted by myself and my colleagues, we have seen little-to-no change in Iran’s behavior as they continue to break international agreements. Yesterday, we learned that the Iranian regime tested a ballistic missile—the second they’ve tested since the deal was signed. This clearly violates U.N. security council resolutions, including the same U.N. resolution that endorsed the Iran deal. In addition to these tests, a recent IAEA report found that Iran has pursued nuclear weapons as recently as 2009.
 
“The administration cannot sit idly by as Iran continues to violate international agreements, and I call on them to take these violations seriously. It’s obvious that Iran has ambitions to create nuclear weapons, and therefore the United States should continue the economic sanctions that successfully brought this tyrannical regime to the negotiating table.  The safety and security of the United States and its allies is my top priority, and I will continue to fight to keep nuclear weapons out of Iran.”

—Dec. 8, 2015, in a statement 

 

36 Republican Senators 

 
Dear Mr. President,

As you know, in addition to Ambassador Samantha Power's determination two months ago, the United Nations Security Council's Panel of Experts on Iran has reportedly concluded that Iran's October 10 test of a ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear weapon violated United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1929. As we have repeatedly emphasized, condemnations of Iran's blatant disregard for its international obligations are not enough. A failure of your administration to follow tough statements with tangible consequences invites Iran to continue violating its obligations and threatens Americans and our allies.
 
Approximately a week after Iran's October 10 test, Ambassador Power confirmed that the test was a "clear violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929." After that test, many of us called for your administration to hold Iran accountable-warning that a failure to do so encourages more violations. Not surprisingly, on November 21, Iran reportedly conducted another ballistic missile test.
 
These ballistic missile tests enhance Tehran's capability to target our ally Israel and U.S. military personnel in the region. They also help Iran advance its intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) program that-once fielded-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has said would serve as Tehran's "preferred method of delivering nuclear weapons..." That is why it is a mistake to treat Iran's ballistic missile program as separate from Iran's nuclear program. Iran is developing ICBM capabilities for the sole purpose of enabling delivery of a nuclear weapon to the United States.
 
On July 7, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, testified that "...under no circumstances should we relieve pressure on Iran relative to ballistic missile capabilities..." We are concerned that the nuclear agreement with Iran will do just that, and a failure to enforce UNSCR 1929 will only relieve the pressure on Iran further.
 
On October 14, Ambassador Power said, "One of the really important features in implementation of the recent Iran deal to dismantle Iran's nuclear program is going to have to be enforcement of the resolutions and the standards that remain on the books." We could not agree more, and we are concerned that your administration is failing to respond to Iran's dangerous and destabilizing actions out of an eagerness to see the Iran deal go forward. This approach toward Tehran undermines further an already weak Iran deal and jeopardizes our national security interests and the safety of Americans and our allies.
 
For these reasons, we urge your administration to not lift sanctions on Iran that would provide billions of dollars in economic relief.
 
Thank you for your attention to this very serious issue.
 
Sincerely,
Kelly Ayotte
Mark Kirk
John McCain
John Thune
Tom Cotton
Mike Lee
Dan Sullivan
Roger Wicker
John Cornyn
Orrin Hatch
Mitch McConnell
Thom Tillis
David Perdue
Roy Blunt
James Risch
Michael Enzi
Cory Gardner
M. Michael Rounds
Deb Fischer
Lisa Murkowski
Johnny Isakson
Lindsey Graham
Chuck Grassley
John Boozman
John Barrasso
James Inhofe
Jerry Moran
Pat Roberts
Ted Cruz
Lamar Alexander
Joni Ernst
Patrick Toomey
Ben Sasse
Tim Scott
Dean Heller
Mike Crapo

—Dec. 16, 2015, in a letter