Are ballistic missiles Iran’s next nuclear bomb?
Tehran recently announced an increase in ballistic missile production, raising alarm not only in region but also for the US
Iran’s continuing experimentation and development of ballistic missiles – a flagrant violation of Security Council resolution no. 2231 - is proving to be a much more threatening policy than its hibernate nuclear program.
On Tuesday, Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Air and Missile Commander, Brigadier General Amir Ali Haji Zadeh, announced an increase of ballistic missile production.
“Iran has increased the missile accuracy and production based on the recommendations of the General Commander of the Armed Forces, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei,” he said during a speech at the Imam Hussein Military University.
The commander said Iranian authorities and experts were successful in using “innovative and shortcut methods” to produce these “inexpensive” missiles.
In March, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards fired a missile at a distance of 1,400 kilometers, with a sign engraved in both Hebrew and Persian that read: “Israel should be wiped out of existence.”
The Commander-in-Chief of the Revolutionary Guards Mohammad Ali Jafari and a number of senior military officials attended the ceremony that saw the firing of the missile.
The military show of might represented a warning message to all the countries of the region, particularly since Iranian officials are always alluding to possible rocket attacks against other Arab countries.
Contrary to the UN resolution no. 2231, which prohibits Tehran conducting ballistic tests and developing long-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear warhead missiles, Iran’s Chief of Staff for the Armed Forces announced in November of last year, that they are establishing new missile factories under the command of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Syria.
On top of that, Iran has already conducted at least four experiments with rockets carrying nuclear warheads.
Both the United States and the 28-state EU strongly oppose Iran’s program to develop missiles. They are also calling for Tehran to halt its ballistic missile tests.
In November, EU’s foreign ministers at a meeting in Brussels also called on Iran to stop these tests.
Iran’s military boats also succeeded in completing its live missile launching exercises unexpectedly near US Navy ships in the international waters of the Arabian Gulf, the latest incident was in August.
US defense agenda
In reaction, the US has set its defense agenda for 2017 by requiring the National Security Advisor to submit a comprehensive report on Iran’s ballistic tests.
There is a call by US Republican Senator Tom Cotton, urging Congress - in cooperation with the president-elect Donald Trump and in coordination with US allies - to impose new sanctions on Iran following Tehran’s ballistic missile program, which has become a growing threat to the region.
“We have many strengths, we are the strongest economy in the world, we are able to impose sanctions for breaches of the nuclear deal and other commitments that the Iranian regime did not take seriously,” Cotton, who is the senator of the state of Arkansas, said in an interview with US channel Fox News.
“These ballistic missiles can reach the territory of the US and its allies. The Iranian regime needs to stop manufacturing missiles and completely stop supporting terrorism and fueling instability in the region,” he added.
Cotton said Iran “must understand that Trump is different from other ex-presidents.”
Trump has raised concerns in Iran when he said he would annul the nuclear deal, which the Obama administration has worked hard to reach in an attempt to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
The list of the US Department of Defense for 2017 also includes reports on Iran’s missile project
Cotton articulated that Iran’s overproduction of heavy water – necessary material used as a moderator in nuclear reactors – is in opposition with the agreed-upon nuclear deal, and the development of an illegal ballistic missile, along with hostage-taking and hostility towards other countries is due to the weakness of the Obama administration.
Feeling the alarm, the US Department of Commerce last July drafted a resolution to extend sanctions against 15 individuals and institutions for their support of the Iranian missile program.
Also, 19 Republican senators called to amend the National Defense Authorization Act to expand sanctions on the institutions and individuals who support Iran’s ballistic missile program.
In January, the United States had already imposed sanctions on Iran for its violation of the Security Council Resolution No. 2231 when Tehran launched its ‘Imad’ missile, capable of carrying a nuclear warhead on Oct. 11, 2015.
Iranian missiles' expanding role
Iran’s missile capabilities are being funneled through its other regional allies.
The Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen had fired Iranian-made missiles on Saudi targets during the past three months. US sources, including the Republican Party senior senator John McCain, have confirmed that the rockets fired by Houthis in November on a US destroyer in the Gulf of Aden were sent by Iran.
In November, Hussein Sheikh al-Islam, the advisor to the Iranian foreign affairs minister, said Iranian missiles are not only manufactured in Syria but in other countries in the region as well.
He said Iran expanded its missiles’ production outside its borders due to the “increasing Israeli threats in the region.”
Although he did not reveal much about the production Iranian missiles, he said Iraq is one of the countries where ballistic missiles are produced.
Russian S-300 missiles
On Monday, Hossein Naghavi Hosseini the spokesman of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, said all the components of the Russian S-300 missile system has been delivered to Iran.
S-300 is a long range surface-to-air missile. It was developed to defend against aircraft and cruise missiles for the Soviet Air Defence Forces in the late 1970s.
“The system has been transferred to our country and now Iran has this air defense technology,” Tehran Times quoted Hosseini as saying. “Considering the complete execution of the S-300 contract, there is no need for Iran to complain about delay in delivery.”
The news comes while Trump is looking for more novel alternatives to levy non-nuclear sanctions on Iran, centered around Iran’s ballistic tests and its violation of human rights.