Global Affairs

Official: Iranian FM “Laughed and Ignored” U.S. Queries on Ballistic Missiles

A Reuters exclusive published late Thursday revealed the existence of a confidential U.N. report indicating that Iran has continued to bolster its ballistic missile program during the implementation of the Joint Plan of Action (JPA).

Despite apparently reducing illicit purchases that breach U.N. sanctions, Iran is pursuing development of ballistic missiles…posing an acute challenge to six powers negotiating with Tehran to rein in its nuclear program. On Sunday, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described as “stupid and idiotic” Western expectations for his country to curb its missile development. He decreed mass production of ballistic weapons, striking a defiant tone just before nuclear talks resumed on Wednesday in Vienna…Tehran’s often repeated view that missiles should not be part of the nuclear talks appears to enjoy the support of Russia, one of the six global powers. But a senior U.S. official made clear this week that Tehran’s ballistic capabilities must be addressed in the negotiations since U.N. Security Council resolutions on Iran “among many other things, do say that any missile capable of delivering a nuclear weapon must be dealt with.”

The decision had been controversial, and White House officials had responded to critics – who accused them of being out-maneuvered – by assuring lawmakers and journalists that the Islamic Republic would be forced to meet such long-standing Western demands in the context of comprehensive negotiations. After some confusion about what the JPA actually said, spokespeople from the National Security Council emphasized that “[UNSC] Resolution 1929 prohibits all activities involving ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches… [s]o this issue will need to be addressed during the comprehensive discussions.” For their part Iranian negotiators have repeatedly and explicitly ruled out making concessions on the country’s ballistic missile program. Top Iranian officials have in fact gone even further, flatly refusing to even discuss the issue and at one point declaring that – since they had succeeded in keeping the program out of the JPA – they couldn’t be expected to discuss it in final talks. A Friday Reuters on Friday conveyed a leak from an Iranian official:

On Wednesday, the U.S. delegation made clear that it wanted to discuss both Iran’s ballistic missile program and possible military dimensions of its past nuclear research. But Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif merely laughed and ignored the remarks, according to an Iranian official present. An American official declined to comment, but referred to remarks from a senior U.S. official this week, who said “every issue” must be resolved.

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