Fulfilling vows the mullahs made to continue developing its ballistic missile program despite threats of new sanctions, the Iranian regime test-fired several ballistic missiles on Tuesday aimed at showing the regime’s “deterrent power” and “all-out readiness to counter any threat,” according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.
The launches were carried out by the Revolutionary Guard Corps with surface-to-surface missiles fired from silos in central Iran and hit targets 435 miles away, according to the semiofficial Fars news agency.
These were the first tests since the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions in January on 11 Iranian entities with alleged links to Tehran’s ballistic missile program, citing the “significant threat” the weapons posed to regional and global security. Iran last tested its missiles in October and November, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The Obama administration was understandably low-key in its response, taking pains to reiterate how it did not see that the test launches violated the recently approved nuclear agreement, but might be in violation of existing United Nations Security Council resolutions banning the development of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles.
“To be very clear, such tests are not a violation of the JCPOA,” a senior Obama administration official said. “That said, there are strong indications that the test is inconsistent with U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231. If confirmed, we intend to raise the matter in the U.N. Security Council. We will also encourage a serious review of the incident and press for an appropriate response.”
Iranian regime officials have said its recent tests don’t violate international accords, and that the weapons are merely for defense. Hassan Rouhani ordered the missiles’ development to be expedited in December, amid the prospect of new U.S. sanctions and in clear defiance of existing prohibitions.
The absurdity of the nuclear deal into stark relief when we now see the folly of unlinking various issues such as ballistic missile development, proxy wars and human rights violations from the principle agreement, in which the regime is now freed of any potential leverage that could be used against it.
In a move that eerily imitates how North Korea ignored international agreements and sanctions, the Iranian regime threatened its willingness to walk away from the nuclear deal it so desperately sought now that is has secured a lifting of economic and gained access to $150 billion in frozen assets around the world.
“If our interests are not met under the nuclear deal, there will be no reason for us to continue,” Abbas Araqchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister, warned during remarks delivered to a group of Iranian officials in Tehran.
“If other parties decide, they could easily violate the deal,” Araqchi was quoted as saying by Iran’s state-controlled media. “However, they know this will come with costs.”
Araqchi appeared to allude to the United States possibly leveling new economic sanctions as a result of the missile test, according to the Washington Free Beacon.
The reaction from Capitol Hill was swift and urgent.
“The administration’s response to Iran’s new salvo of threatening missile tests in violation of international law cannot once again be, it’s ‘not supposed to be doing that,’” Sen. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) said in a statement. “Now is the time for new crippling sanctions against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Ministry of Defense, Aerospace Industries Organization, and other related entities driving the Iranian ballistic missile program.”
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) warned that the nuclear agreement has done little to moderate the regime’s rogue behavior.
“Far from pushing Iran to a more moderate engagement with its neighbors, this nuclear deal is enabling Iran’s aggression and terrorist activities,” McCarthy said in a statement. “Sanctions relief is fueling Iran’s proxies from Yemen to Iraq to Syria to Lebanon. Meanwhile, Khamenei and the Iranian regime are acting with impunity because they know President Obama will not hold them accountable and risk the public destruction of his nuclear deal, the cornerstone of the president’s foreign policy legacy.”
McCarthy went on to demand that the Obama administration step forward with new sanctions as punishment for the missile test.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said on Tuesday that lawmakers would continue to press for new sanctions against Tehran “until the regime ends its violent, provocative behavior against the U.S. and our allies.”
In another sign that the regime has no interest in real moderation in the government, in spite of how the Iran lobby characterized the election results, top mullah Ali Khamenei appointed close ally Ebrahim Raeisi, the 55-year-old national prosecutor-general, as the new chairman of Astan Quds Razavi, the foundation that manages the shrine of Imam Reza in Mashhad.
Raeisi is a close ally of Khamenei, and his appointment will strengthen links between the leader’s office and the shrine, whose annual turnover – based on endowments, property and companies – is many billions of dollars slated for Khamenei’s private coffers.
Raeisi, who holds the clerical rank of hojjatoleslam, is a different character, according to a story by The Guardian. At last year’s 36th anniversary of the taking of the embassy hostages, which featured criticism of the Rouhani administration as well as denunciations of the United States as the “Great Satan”, Raeisi announced that the intelligence and security forces had “identified and cracked down on a network of penetration in media and cyberspace, and detained spies and writers hired by Americans.”
Raeisi, reportedly defended the amputation of the hands of thieves, also at the time of the 1988 executions of 3,000-5,000 political prisoners and dissidents ordered by then leader Khomenei, Raeisi was deputy prosecutor in Tehran, a role he had held since 1984-5 where he played a key role in the massacre.
These are the faces controlling Iran and it does not bode well for future prospects for peace.
By Michael Tomlinson