For the second time since the United Nations Security Council endorsed the Iran Deal with its Resolution 2231, Iran has apparently violated the terms of that resolution by testing a ballistic missile. This weapon was designed at the Shahid Hemmat Missile Industries Complex, and is an advanced version of the Shahab-3 that is called the Ghadr-110. If it is like its predecessor it can carry a warhead of over two thousand pounds, making it nuclear capable. Its major improvements over the old design include a capacity to be set up and fired in half an hour, instead of the several hours the previous model required. It has an effective range of up to 2,000 km.
The test underlines an ongoing connection between Iran and North Korea, which is also in defiance of international sanctions. As Leo Byrne reports from NKNews, Iran and Syria remain “resilient” customers for the rogue regime in North Asia. The technology of this weapon is originally North Korean. The Ghadr-110 is an improvement of the Shahab-3, which is itself merely a variation of North Korea’s Nodong-1 missile purchased by Iran in defiance of the United Nations.
Iran’s other apparent violation of the ballistic missile provisions in Resolution 2231 was of a weapon called the “Emad,” or “pillar,” which was also nuclear-capable in payload capacity. The Emad has a slightly shorter range and carries a smaller warhead as well. This launch was described as a clear violation of the terms of the Iran deal by no less than Samantha Power, one of President Obama’s chief advisers on national security.
Whether these apparent violations of the Security Council’s resolution will produce any results is a matter of debate. From the perspective of the Iranian government, they have not only the right but the constitutional duty to defy the resolution. Senior Iranian leaders could not have been clearer in expressing their commitment to ignore UNSC Resolution 2231. More than that, Iran’s constitution commits Iran to a very specific foreign policy. Specifically, all governments of Iran are bound to reject “all forms of domination,” and to preserve “the independence of the country in all respects.” It further states that “[a]ny form of agreement resulting in foreign control over the natural resources, economy, army, or culture of the country, as well as other aspects of the national life, is forbidden.” Thus, the Iranian government has a duty written into its constitution to reject UN attempts to enforce Security Council Resolutions, or to require Iran to abide by the terms of such resolutions.
It is likely that the United Nations will not decide to attempt to enforce 2231. Russia’s veto will probably protect Iran from new UN-level sanctions, especially given that Russia and Iran are partners in the war in Syria. Russia can argue, as US Senator Robert Menendez attempted to warn Secretary of State John F. Kerry, that the language of 2231 merely ‘calls upon’ Iran not to test such missiles, language that Iran is within its rights to ignore. The deal negotiated by Kerry softened the language of earlier sanctions, which outright forbid such tests.
International sanctions are unlikely to ‘snap back’ on Iran either, as European powers have rushed to invest huge sums in Iran‘s infrastructure in the wake of the “deal.” None of the governments concerned are likely to throw away their investments or the potential economic rewards they hope to reap.
United States sanctions are also unlikely to be imposed. President Obama views this deal as his chief legacy in foreign policy, and at a time when the entire Middle East is in turmoil because of his other foreign policy failures he is unlikely to throw away his last fig leaf. The same UN resolution that Iran is defying appears to bind the United States from introducing new nuclear related sanctions in any event, and the Obama administration has — also in accord with its duties under 2231 — discouraged Congress from crafting ‘snap back’ sanctions that would apply to Iranian violations.
The only road that might produce new sanctions would be for the American Congress to defy the President by passing them independently, and then overriding his veto. The Iran Policy Oversight Act of 2015, which might serve as a starting point for such action, is currently being considered by the Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations. However, negotiations have already significantly weakened the bill from its original form, and it is not now strong enough without modification to be effective.