Ever since German rocket scientists developed the world’s first ballistic missile in the V-2 rocket that rained down destruction on London during World War II, the world has grappled with the implications of the threat ballistic missiles pose to global security now since they can deliver nuclear warheads or biological and chemical agents.
Today roughly 30 countries have operationally deployed ballistic missiles with the Iranian regime and North Korea leading the pack in missile test flights. Images of missiles racing skyward in massive flaming plumes have become standard programming on television channels beamed from Tehran and Pyongyang.
Beyond their propaganda value, ballistic missiles are a serious security threat to all nations because of their ability to leave the atmosphere, travel vast distances in a short amount of time and deliver their payload without a serious chance of being intercepted.
The threat North Korea poses to its Asian neighbors and the West Coast of the U.S. has pushed global instability to the brink over the past decade. A similar crash program by the Iranian regime to develop its own ballistic missile fleet based on North Korean designs has brought the Gulf region to a similar head.
The deeply flawed nuclear deal negotiated with the Iranian regime two years ago neglected to make ballistic missiles part of the restrictions sought by the U.S. and its allies. Many reasons have been given by negotiators and the Obama administration as to why such an allowance was given to the mullahs in Tehran.
The results have been disastrous since it essentially gave them a free pass to develop a missile capability that prior to the nuclear deal was nascent at best. The fact that the nuclear agreement also funneled billions of dollars in fresh capital to the regime to provide it with the funds necessary to scale up its missile construction on a national scale.
It is not coincidental that after the nuclear deal the world soon saw larger and more powerful missiles launch from sites throughout Iran in displays that the mullahs were not shy about using as threats against their Sunni neighbors such as Saudi Arabia, as well as to the U.S.
Ballistic missiles are also critical to any nuclear program since they are the only delivery system that can make good on any nation’s threats to strike at its enemies with near impunity. Now as the Trump administration has moved to decertify Iran’s participation in the nuclear agreement, the question of how to deal with the Iranian missile threat is moving front and center with policymakers.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted nearly unanimously recently for new sanctions on Iranian regime’s ballistic missile program, part of an effort to clamp down on Tehran.
The vote was 423 to two for the “Iran Ballistic Missiles and International Sanctions Enforcement Act.” Among other things, it calls on the U.S. president to report to Congress on the Iranian and international supply chain for Iran’s ballistic missile program and to impose sanctions on Iranian government or foreign entities that support it, according to Reuters.
The House passed three other Iran-related measures last week, including new sanctions on Lebanon’s Iranian regime-backed Hezbollah militia and a resolution urging the European Union to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.
The moves underscore the U.S. resolve to confront the Iranian regime on a broader set of issues than the Obama administration addressed during nuclear talks.
It has become abundantly clear that by not addressing Iranian actions on a range of issues such as support of terrorism, ballistic missiles and human rights, the mullahs essentially acted with the assurance they would be free of any international repercussions.
They decision to wade into the Syrian civil war in support of the Assad regime is the centerpiece example of that calculus; even after Assad brutally used chemical weapons on his own people, there was no consequence for that heinous act, only emboldening the mullahs in Tehran.
But now the stage is set for confrontation with Iran as the regime’s leadership has planted a proverbial flag in the ground over its ballistic missile program.
Regime leader Hassan Rouhani said Sunday, after the House of Representatives approved its missile sanctions legislation in a speech carried on nationwide television, that no international agreements prohibit the development of non-nuclear weapons such as ballistic missiles, and that Iran has a right to produce them for its own defense.
“We will build, produce and store any weapon of any kind we need to defend ourselves, our territorial integrity and our nation, and we will not hesitate about it,” he said, according to a translation provided by the Iranian Students News Agency.
What is quickly shaping up is a test of wills between the Trump administration and the mullahs not only over the fate of ballistic missiles, but over the larger question of whether or not the U.S. will be able to rein in Iranian excesses moving forward.
For President Trump, the more strategic issue facing him is how to curb Iranian regime’s influence in places such as Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan and hold the line against the spread of its radicalized Islamic religion.
In this regard, the battle over the nuclear deal and ballistic missiles are inextricably linked together and any future scenario of resolving them will most likely have to be done together.
This problem is precisely what experts had warned about two years ago when the ill-fated nuclear agreement was being negotiated in the first place. Iranian dissidents and groups such as the National Council of Resistance of Iran warned of the regime’s duplicity and actively countered the false promises made by Iran lobby supporters such as the National Iranian American Council.
Ultimately, the real tests facing the Trump administration and U.S. lawmakers are only now being confronted. We hope they choose a different path from the one charted earlier.