5 Takeaway Points from Today’s Hearing on Iran’s Ballistic Missile Threat

On June 10, the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, chaired by Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), met with a panel to discuss the threat posed by Iran’s missile development program. The panel was composed of four members: Michael T. Flynn, Robert Joseph, David A. Cooper, and Anthony H. Cordesman. The panel largely agreed that a nuclear Iran poses a serious threat to the US, and that the current US-Iran nuclear talks that are set to draw to a close soon are a recipe for disaster.

Here are five important points to take away from today’s hearing:

1) We must reestablish the legitimacy of the United States in the Middle East.

The US is losing its legitimacy in the Middle East. Our allies do not know if they can depend or rely on us, and our enemies no longer see our retaliatory reactions as a tangible deterrence to breaking international laws or norms. Rather than turning to us for help, countries in the Middle East have begun seeking out Russia, China, and North Korea. Rather than turning our backs on the region, we must show the countries in the Middle East that we are serious about our security commitments, because…

2) Nuclear proliferation in the Middle East has begun, and it is irreversible.

No state wants to be the only one in a region without nuclear capabilities, leading to a regional nuclear arms race that will be reminiscent of the US-Soviet arms buildup in the Cold War. Rather than attempting to stop the spread of nuclear capabilities in the Middle East, our time will be much better spent trying to control how it spreads. As Flynn said, we don’t want Russia to talk to Jordan or Egypt about building nuclear plants, and we don’t want China to work with Saudi Arabia on its nuclear power. It is in our best interest to set the terms of the legitimate spread of nuclear capabilities.

3) The only thing that Iran says that we can take at face value is its expressed desire to have a nuclear program.

Iran has repeatedly stated throughout the past few decades that it wants to build a nuclear program, and its leadership has expressed continued interest in the creation of long-range ballistic missiles. Now, even as Iran is engaged in negotiations with the US over the creation of a peaceful missile program, it will not answer key questions about its nuclear capabilities posed by international regulators. As Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Ed Royce (R-CA) said, countries that want nuclear programs always create missile programs. If they give up one, they give up the other, but Iran is looking to expand its missile program. Its unwillingness to share information about its expanding nuclear and missile programs is suspicious, and leads to a conclusion  that Iran’s expressed peaceful intentions cannot unquestionably be taken as truth. Similarly…

4) We must address the problem of dual-usage.

Iran has been claiming that it wants to focus on its space program. However, much of the technology needed to launch unmanned vehicles into space is the same technology needed to launch a long-range missile. Therefore, Iran has the ability to disguise a long-range ballistic missile development program as a space program, and it is highly likely that this is what it is doing.

5) The fact that the deal does not account for Iran’s missile capability makes it more dangerous than no deal.

Iran already has short and intermediate range missile capability. Coupled with a nuclear weapons program, Iran will have the ability to fire nuclear warheads at the Middle East and much of Europe. It gives many weapons to Hezbollah and Hamas, and if it gives them nuclear capability or long range missiles, Israel could be put at serious risk. If it is able to effectively develop long-range missiles, the US could be put at risk as well, as Iran would be able to attack us without ever leaving its own borders. The deal, as it currently exists, can seriously undermine stability and peace around the world. The US must seriously consider all of the long-term implications of this deal with Iran as it heads into the final weeks of negotiations.