Bolton: Excluding Ballistic Missiles from Iran Nuke Deal Was ‘Fundamental Flaw’

Patrick Goodenough | October 12, 2015 | 4:13am EDT
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Iranian ballistic missiles. (AP Photo/Iranian Defense Ministry)

( – Iran on Sunday test-fired a long-range ballistic missile with a claimed new precision guidance system, less than three months after the Obama administration pushed through a U.N. Security Council resolution that unshackled Iran from some previous restrictions on missile activity.

The reported range of the Emad (Pillar) surface-to-surface missile would include population centers in Israel, the Arab Gulf states and Turkey, as well as U.S. military assets in the Gulf.

Iran already has missiles boasting that range, but this time claims that a new guidance system would enable the Emad, in the words of Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehqan, “to strike targets with a high level of precision and completely destroy them.”

“We don’t seek permission from anyone to strengthen our defense and missile capabilities,” he told Iranian state media after the launch – which he declared a success.

During the negotiations that produced the nuclear agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran resisted attempts by the U.S. and others to include ballistic missiles in the deal.

“I think it was a fundamental flaw of the entire approach to the negotiations by the Obama administration, not to consider issues like Iran’s ballistic missile program as part of the problem,” former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton told Fox News on Sunday.

“This program is not designed to launch weather communication satellites,” said Bolton, also a former undersecretary of state for arms control and international security. “It’s designed to be a delivery system for nuclear warheads.”

Referring to the Emad, he said while the development was not new when it came to the missile’s range, “the big breakthrough may be – if it’s true – its guidance system, because the more accurate the missile is, obviously the greater devastation it can cause.”

After the JCPOA was finalized, it was enshrined in a resolution adopted by the U.N. Security Council on July 20.  That resolution effectively replaced six previous resolutions passed between 2006 and 2010, some of which had prohibited Iran from launches that use ballistic missile technology, and restricted other countries from transferring ballistic missile technology or assistance to Iran.

The new resolution weakened those limitations in several respects:

--The language used was less prescriptive than elsewhere in the text, with Iran being “called upon” to comply, rather than being told that it “shall comply”;

--The text is open to the interpretation that Iran is “called upon” to comply only with restrictions on missile activity that relates to nuclear weapons; and

--An eight-year expiration date was set for the restrictions.

As a result, the Iranian negotiators boasted from the outset that they had achieved their goals regarding missiles.

The day after the Security Council passed the resolution, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told Iranian lawmakers that not only was the missile provision “non-binding” (“called upon” rather than “shall comply”), but further that since none of Iran’s ballistic missiles are designed to carry nuclear weapons, this provision did not apply in any case.

“This paragraph speaks about missiles with nuclear warheads capability and since we don’t design any of our missiles for carrying nuclear weapons, therefore, this paragraph is not related to us at all,” he said at the time.

A 2014 report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies describes the Emad as a variant of Iran’s existing Shahab-3 missile, but equipped with “a maneuvering reentry vehicle to improve system accuracy and complicate missile defense.”

The Shahab-3 is a liquid-fueled, road-mobile weapon, based on the North Korean Nodong-1.

When North Korea in May 1993 tested its Nodong missile, Iranian experts attended the launch, according to media reports at the time. Iran subsequently developed the Shahab-3, first testing it in 1998 – with North Koreans officials observing.

Iranian officials say the Shahab-3 was not designed to carry a nuclear payload and so is not covered by any restrictions imposed by the international community.

“Missiles like Shahab, Sejjil and the like, have never been used for carrying nuclear warheads, and therefore, are not subject to” the restrictions in the JCPOA-authorizing resolution, Ali Akbar Velayati, foreign affairs advisor to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in July.

In 2011, however, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a report there was  “credible” evidence that Iran had carried out “activities relevant to the development of a nuclear device,” including work on a project aimed at fitting a “spherical payload” into the payload chamber of a Shahab-3 missile.

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