Iran Confirms Ballistic Missile Test, Vows to Defy International Pressure

By Ahmad Majidyar | Fellow and Director of IranObserved Project - The Middle East Institute | Feb 1, 2017
Iran Confirms Ballistic Missile Test, Vows to Defy International Pressure

On February 1, the Iranian defense minister confirmed that the Islamic Republic had carried out a ballistic missile test and vowed to continue to enhance the country’s missile capabilities despite growing international concern. “The recent (missile) test was in line with our programs, and we will not allow any outsider to interfere in our defense affairs,” Brigadier General Hossein Dehghan told reporters in Tehran. Dehghan’s remark came just a day after the U.N. Security Council, at the request of the United States, held an emergency meeting to discuss Iran’s latest test and assess whether it violated or was inconsistent with the U.N. resolution 2231. 

Separately, the Iranian parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee held a session on the issue today and declared that “Iran’s defense and missile program is not negotiable with anyone and no country is allowed to interfere in the country’s defense issues.” The committee emphasized that Iran will do its utmost to strengthen its defense capabilities, including the missile technology. Some 220 parliamentary also issued a joint statement – reaffirming support for the country’s missile program, rejecting international condemnation, and calling on the government to further increase the country’s missile capability. At the same time, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Behram Qasemi said “missile tests are the Islamic Republic of Iran’s natural and legitimate right” and stressed that no foreign country or international body has the right to express any opinion on it.

The controversy started after U.S. officials revealed on Monday that Iran had test-fired the Khorramshahr medium-range ballistic missile that exploded after flying 600 miles. While the nuclear agreement Tehran signed with world powers in 2015 does not address Iran’s missile program, a subsequent U.N. resolution 2231 states that Iran is “called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”

While Iranian leaders argue that the country’s ballistic missiles do not violate the resolution because they are not designed to carry nuclear warheads, Western officials say some of the missiles Iran has tested after the 2015 nuclear deal have been "inherently capable of delivering nuclear weapons" and are "in defiance of" the U.N. resolution. On Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley called Iran’s latest test "unacceptable" and warned that the United States will is “not going to stand by.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the test was a "flagrant violation" of the U.N. resolution, and that he would ask Trump in their upcoming meeting to renew sanctions against Iran. The Islamic Republic’s Sejjil missile with a range of about 1240 miles and its medium-range Shahab-3 can both reach Israel.  

Iran has conducted several ballistic missile tests since the July 2015 nuclear accord, but the latest launch was the first since President Donald Trump took office and tests the new administration’s resolve to strictly implement the nuclear accord and other international and U.S. restrictions on Iran, including ones related to the country’s missile activity and support for terrorism. While Trump has not indicated since he took office last month that he would fulfil his campaign promise and cancel the Iran nuclear deal, U.S. lawmakers have vowed to impose additional unilateral sanctions on Iran this year. After Iran’s latest test, Bob Corker, the chairman of the U.S. Senate foreign relations committee, released a statement that said: “No longer will Iran be given a pass for its repeated ballistic missile violations, continued support of terrorism, human rights abuses and other hostile activities that threaten international peace and security.”