Welcome to Iran’s “Missile City”!

It seems like only yesterday that Hossein Salami, deputy General of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), was lamenting that Iran had no more space in which to hide illegally developed missiles from American eyes.  In fact, it was just last week.  It turns out that Salami was having a little joke on us, though, as he must have been aware that Iran has developed a whole new “missile city” in which to house Emad nuclear-capable missles.

The Islamic Republic has revealed a second launch site of its first-ever guided ballistic missile, Emad. The UN Security Council last month concluded that Emad could carry a nuclear payload, and violates a 2010 resolution.

Parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani was seen touring the new facility, operated by the elite Revolutionary Guards, in a state television report broadcast on Tuesday. The report, and local news agency bulletins which followed, did not give out the name or location of the depot, mentioning only that it was located “underground” and “in the mountains.”

IranTruth reported on the Emad missile at the time of its test in October.  It is not Iran’s longest-range missile, having a range of only 1,700 km.  Nevertheless, it has what is for Iran a precision guidance capacity that makes it accurate to within 500 m.  That level of accuracy is not great by Western standards — it means that it might hit within five football fields in any direction of its intended target — but it is better than Iran has been able to field in the past.

However, that 500m accuracy also means that the missile does not make much military sense unless its warhead is extremely powerful.  It has a payload of 1,653 pounds, which would make it smaller than an American JDAM if conventional munitions are used.  It is, however, adequate for a nuclear warhead.

The October test clearly violated the spirit of the United Nations Security Council ruling endorsing the Iran deal, UNSCR 2231, which “calls upon” Iran not to engage in ballistic missile tests.  However, a UN panel of experts overseeing the Iran deal determined that 2231 is not yet binding on Iran because the full implementation of the deal has yet to occur.  Instead, they determined that Iran is still bound by an earlier UN Security Council ruling, UNSCR 1929, which has even stronger language against ballistic missile tests by Iran.  They are still investigating whether a second reported test also violated UNSCR 1929.

The News of Pakistan reported what it described as claims by US officials that the United States would respond to these developments with new sanctions aimed at individuals and businesses associated with Iran’s nuclear program.  It is unclear who their sources are, but the claim is doubtful.  Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has repeatedly said that any new sanctions, even those licensed by the JCPOA and UNSCR 2231 for violations of Iran’s responsibilities under those acts, would be enough to render the Iran deal null and void.  The President of the United States, Barack Obama, has a tremendous amount of personal prestige invested in this deal.  So far, his administration has blinked at every Iranian violation in an attempt to maintain the facade that the deal is intact.

Meanwhile, the visit resulted in the leader of Iran’s parliament pledging to support President Hassan Rouhani’s call for an increased missile budget.  Speaker Ali Larijani said that these missiles represent Iran’s “most effective deterrence,” presumably against military attempts to prevent Iran’s realization of its nuclear weapons program.