In the 10 months since the Iran nuclear agreement was signed, Iran has increased the frequency of its ballistic missile testing, according to researcher Michael Elleman, who testified before a US senatorial committee this week.
The researcher said that the Islamic Republic is primarily focused on increasing the accuracy, not the range of its missiles.
Elleman, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) think tank, was called to speak on Tuesday before the US Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, which is investigating the effects of the nuclear deal.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was signed in July 2015 between Iran and P5+1 world powers.
According to Elleman, in the year following the signing of the agreement and the removal of sanctions, Iran has performed at least eight missile tests — three in 2015 and five so far in 2016.
In 2005, 2013 and 2014, however, when negotiations for the deal were in full swing, Iran did not perform a single test of a “nuclear-capable missile”.
Speaking about the accuracy and range of the missiles, he said that Iran sought to improve their accuracy, a priority that “supersedes the need to develop longer-range missiles”. He added: “Iran has repeatedly said that it does not need missiles with a range of greater than 2,000 kilometers, or 1,200 miles”. At that range, Iran could easily reach any target within Israel, which is just under 1,000 miles away.
Since then, Iran’s ballistic missile programme has become a central issue in the debate surrounding the nuclear deal, with opponents of the agreement saying test launches violate the terms of the JCPOA, while proponents argue missile tests are “inconsistent” with United Nations resolutions but not necessarily illegal.
According to the UN resolution, “Iran is called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology”, until October 2023.
Reports state that as Iran was only “called upon not to” test missiles, but not expressly forbidden from doing so, the country has used that loophole to increase its testing with impunity.
In April this year, the UK, US, Germany and France sent a joint letter of complaint to the UN Security Council over recent Iranian ballistic missile tests, which were conducted in defiance of Security Council resolutions.
The joint letter reportedly stated that Iran has been testing missiles “inherently capable of delivering nuclear weapons” and as such the tests are “inconsistent with” and “in defiance of” resolution 2231. It reportedly asked the UN Security Council to discuss “appropriate responses” to the tests and to report back.
This week, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said in defiance of concerns from the international community: “[The US has] engaged in a lot of hue and cry over Iran’s missile capabilities, but they should know that this ballyhoo does not have any influence and they cannot do a damn thing”.
A senior Iranian military commander, Ahmad Karimpour, also boasted this week that the Iranian military could “raze the Zionist regime in less than eight minutes” if given the orders to do so by the Supreme Leader.
Nuclear sanctions on Iran were lifted in January, leading to the country securing access to more than $100 billion from the relief. Many believe that the relief has empowered Iran’s hardliners and will help fund its regional hegemonic ambitions.