Senators Kelly Ayotte (R – N.H.) and Mark Kirk (R – Ill.) expressed their concern on Tuesday regarding the White House’s lack of response to the two reported ballistic missile tests Iran carried out since the nuclear deal was announced.
In a letter sent to President Barack Obama, the senators wrote that “it is not clear” that the administration took any steps to confront Iran following the launch of a ballistic missile in October, and inquired about plans to address Iran’s latest test, reportedly carried out last month.
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.
The Wall Street Journal reported (Google link) that Kirk noted, “Both nuclear missile tests fly in the face of U.N. Security Council resolutions, yet the administration is not punishing these violations.”
On Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said, “The U.S. is conducting a serious review of the reported incident.” At a press briefing, State Department Spokesman John Kirby added that the U.S. would “take the appropriate actions” against Iran if it had violated UN Security Council resolutions with the ballistic missile test. A reporter challenged Kirby, observing, “this is very similar rhetoric from this podium that was said back in October about the last launch. There’s concern that Iran is not getting the message.”
Iran initially announced that it was scheduling ballistic missile tests in August and carried out a first launch in October. Following the test, 11 Democratic senators asked President Obama to “consider unilateral and multilateral responses” to confront Iran’s “clear non-compliance with UNSCR 1929 and to deter future violations.” Ambassador Power also indicated that these tests violated Security Council resolutions, and the U.S., Britain, France, and Germany sent a letter to the UN sanctions committee, urging it to take “appropriate action” against Iran for its “serious violation” of the ban on ballistic missile development. Reuters reported on Tuesday that “So far, no action has been taken by the committee, though Power said council members would be discussing the issue next week.”
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has warned that “the nuclear deal will be rendered void” if there is any attempt to reimpose sanctions on Iran for any reason.
Senator Ayotte has highlighted concerns over Iran’s ballistic missile development in the past. In the video embedded below, she is seen questioning former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey about the decision to allow Iran to have such a program.
[Photo: SenatorAyotte / YouTube ]