On Saturday, 23rd September, Iran’s state television claimed that it has successfully tested a new medium-range ballistic missile, in defiance of recent US demands to halt its missile programme. The announcement of the test came hours after the ‘Khoramshahr’ missile was displayed at a military parade in Tehran; it allegedly has a range of 2000 km and is capable of carrying several warheads. The Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, said in a televised speech: “We will increase our military power as a deterrent. We will strengthen our missile capabilities…We will not seek permission from anyone to defend our country.” Apparently, President, Hassan Rouhani, is sending a strong signal to the US that Iran will not give in to pressure.
The announcement of the test drew an international criticism, as the US President Donald Trump stated on Twitter, “Iran just test-fired a Ballistic Missile capable of reaching Israel. They are also working with North Korea. Not much of an agreement we have!” generating uncertainty over further US commitment to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Concerns were also raised by France, who called on the UN to conduct a full report on the launch, with a foreign ministry spokesperson, Agnes Romatet-Espagne, saying “France asks that Iran cease all destabilizing activity in the region.” Similarly, UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson tweeted “Extremely concerned by reports of Iran missile test, which is inconsistent with UN resolution 2231. Call on Iran to halt provocative acts.”
The international community must ensure that tensions do not escalate leading to Iranian provocations similar to those of North Korea. Whilst the 2015 Iran nuclear deal does not prohibit Iran from developing ballistic missile weapons, the UN has sought to limit Iran’s development of technology. In fact, the test is indicative of the recent tensions at the UN General Assembly in New York between Trump and Rouhani concerning the deal, as Trump accused Iran of being a rogue state destabilizing the Middle East and declared the deal an “embarrassment” to the US, whilst Rouhani called Trump a rogue newcomer to international politics.
The Trump administration has previously voiced discontent with Iran and the 2015 nuclear agreement, which restricts Iran’s nuclear activities in return for a lifting of international sanctions. In February of this year, after a test with a similar type of missile, Trump stated that the US was “putting Iran on notice,” and subsequently imposed new economic sanctions in July over its missile programme. Following the implementation of the deal, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution which called on Iran not to further develop ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons for eight years.
On October 15, President Trump will report to the US Congress whether Iran is in compliance with the deal and whether the US is interested in continuing with it or not. In fact, it would be a mistake for the US to renege on the deal, and reimpose nuclear-related sanctions, as it would lead to Iran reverting back to expanding its uranium enrichment. It is critically important to continue the deal, keep its significate progress and prevent losing it due to some inflammatory rhetoric.
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