January 03, 2017
For the first time in more than six months, the Islamic Republic has tested a ballistic missile, a Pentagon official said, but the test failed as the missile blew up.
The test may well be used by the Trump Administration to put pressure on Iran by accusing it of violating a missile test ban in the nuclear agreement. As of Tuesday, the Trump Administration had not yet accused Iran of a violation and had only asked the UN Security Council for a meeting to discuss the test.
The Pentagon official said the missile was unable to re-enter the atmosphere safely and blew up, suggesting Iran has not mastered the re-entry technology. The missile had traveled 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) when it blew up. The official did not name the missile type that was tested.
Foreign Minister Moham-mad-Javad Zarif would not confirm or deny the test and his manner suggested he might not have been consulted about the test, which has potentially grave foreign policy implications for Iran.
Zarif spoke at a joint news conference with visiting French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, who said it was imperative that the Islamic Republic abide strictly by the conditions of the nuclear agreement. Ayrault said that in his meetings in Tehran he had voiced concern about the latest test, saying it contravened UN Security Council Resolution 2231 and undermined international confidence in Tehran’s commitments, Reuters reported.
The nuclear agreement, as enshrined in a UN Security Council resolution, specifies that Iran is barred for eight years from testing any missile that is “designed” to carry a nuclear warhead.
Iran says it has no missiles “designed” to carry a nuclear warhead, although it has some bottle-nosed missiles, a shape commonly used for nuclear warheads.
Zarif said he hopes the issue is not used as “an excuse for some political games by the new US administration.”
As a candidate, Trump never threatened to “tear up” the nuclear agreement, as many other GOP candidates did. However, he said he would enforce it to the letter—and Sunday’s test may provide the first opportunity to do so.
An unanswered question is why Iran conducted the test Sunday, in effect waving a red flag in front of the Trump Administration and begging for a confrontation.
A US State Department spokesman said Monday that the US was studying whether the test violates the UN Resolution, but he did not accuse Iran of violating it.
Zarif said, “The missile issue is not part of the nuclear deal. As all signatories to the nuclear deal have announced, the missile issue is not a part of the nuclear deal.” That is technically correct. Missiles were not part of the two years of talks that culminated in the nuclear deal. But, at the UN, the restriction on missile tests was added to the resolution that encompassed the nuclear deal.
Zarif said Iran’s missiles “are not designed for the capability of carrying a nuclear warhead…. Our ballistic missile was designed to carry a normal warhead in the field of legitimate defense.”