Iranian President Hassan Rouhani responded sharply to American statements that there might be sanctions to punish Iran for its illegal ballistic missile tests. Rouhani ordered new missiles to be built, and new tests, to punish the United States for even mentioning the possibility of new sanctions. Iran has already built so many missiles that it claims to be having trouble hiding them all.
Talk of new sanctions by American officials came weeks after a United Nations panel determined that the first of two ballistic missile tests by Iran was a violation of UN Security Council resolutions. The second of the tests is still under consideration. The panel points out that Iran is under the control of UN Security Council Resolution 1929, which bans all such tests by Iran, until the Iran Deal is fully implemented. It remains unclear whether the language in UN Resolution 2231, which endorses and implements the deal, is strong enough to serve as a full ban on Iranian ballistic missile testing. Some diplomats assert that it is, including United States Secretary of State John F. Kerry. Others, including United States Senator Robert Menendez, note that the language is much weaker under 2231, which merely “calls upon” Iran not to build or test new ballistic missiles for a certain period.
Iran’s government, for its part, rejects all the Security Council resolutions. Its leadership could not be clearer about this. Rouhani himself said that “We will buy, sell and develop any weapons we need and we will not ask for permission or abide by any resolution for that.” Explaining his reasoning, he added, “We can negotiate with other countries only when we are powerful. If a country does not have power and independence, it cannot seek real peace.”
Iran’s parliament stripped even the least pretense of compliance with the ballistic missile testing regime from the version of the Iran deal it renegotiated with itself.
Foreign Minister Javed Zarif declared that “violating UNSCR 2231 has no consequences.” His deputy, Abbas Araghchi, said that “Just as we refrained from complying with [earlier] UN Security Council resolutions,” he said, “we can do so with regards to 2231.”
Senior Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh stated that these tests were important as “a thorn in the eyes of our enemies.”
It is arguably the case that Iran is constitutionally forbidden from accepting limits on its military programs in any case. Its constitution specifies a foreign policy that rejects “all forms of domination” and preserves “the independence of the country in all respects.” It specifically names “any form of agreement” resulting in foreign limitations on “the army” among other aspects especially forbidden from control. It is thus doubtful that Iran could sign an agreement with any foreign body limiting its military, and it is clear that it is bound to reject any United Nations resolutions pretending to control it in these matters.
Rouhani’s new missiles will require new storage, according to IRGC deputy General Hossein Salami. “We lack enough space in our stockpiles to house our missiles,” he said during Friday prayers at a mosque he attended.
“Hundreds of long tunnels are full of missiles ready to fly to protect your integrity, independence and freedom,” he added, pledging that Iran would never “stop developing our defense deterrent.”
In spite of having already stuffed its tunnels to capacity with illegal missiles, there seems to be considerable agreement among Iranian officials that more rapid missile development is the path forward. Brigadier General Hossein Dehghan, the officer instructed by Rouhani to develop the new missiles, told the press that “Given the current circumstances in the region and the world, we believe peace and security can only be achieved through strength. Therefore, we are going to expand our missiles in terms of range and accuracy.”
UPDATE: The White House announced it would “delay” its plans for sanctions targeting Iran’s missile violations in the wake of Rouhani’s threats.