The Corner

National Security & Defense

Iran Conducts Missile Tests — But Will Get No More Than a Slap on the Wrist

According to press reports, Iran tested several ballistic missiles over the last few days. These reportedly were tactical and short-range missiles with ranges between 180 and 400 miles.

Iran reportedly is planning to launch a rocket it claims is a space-launch vehicle to place a satellite in orbit using its new Simorgh rocket, a launch most experts believe will actually be a test to develop an ICBM capable of carrying a nuclear warhead against Europe and the United States. This test will be similar to a recent North Korean rocket test.

Obama officials were quick to point out that Iran’s new missile tests did not violate the July nuclear deal. This is technically true — although President Obama and Secretary Kerry claimed at the time that Iran had agreed to honor U.N. Security Council resolutions barring ballistic-missile tests for eight years, this commitment was not actually in the agreement — it was buried in an annex to a Security Council resolution that endorsed the deal. Iranian officials have denied that they agreed to any limitations on their missile program in the nuclear deal.

In December, a U.N. Security Council panel determined that two Iranian missile tests last fall violated U.N. Security Council resolutions. The Council did not sanction Iran for these launches. After bipartisan pressure from Congress, the Obama administration implemented mild sanctions in response to these missile tests in January.

By contrast, the Security Council passed stronger sanctions against North Korea on March 1, 2016, in response to the North’s recent nuclear test and long-range missile launch.

Obama officials indicated today that they will raise Iran’s latest missile test in the Security Council. If the Council takes up this issue — and even if Iran conducts a test of the Simorgh long-range missile — it is certain that the U.N. will give Iran no more than a slap on the wrist because no nation, especially the U.S., wants to endanger the nuclear deal. Iran knows this and is certain to continue to defy the international community by developing its missile arsenal that has only one purpose: serving as a delivery system for its nuclear warheads.

Fred Fleitz, president of the Center for Security Policy, served in 2018 as deputy assistant to the president and to the chief of staff of the National Security Council. He previously held national-security jobs with the CIA, the DIA, the Department of State, and the House Intelligence Committee staff. He is the editor of the 2020 book Defending against Biothreats.


The Latest