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Iran
May 8, 2018

Going Ballistic: Responding to Iranian Missile Advances

by
Henry Jackson Society

As European governments scramble to find a way to save the Iran nuclear deal, a new report today from The Henry Jackson Society says that the only way to convince President Trump to secure its future would be to take firm steps to tackle Tehran’s ballistic missile programme – and levy sanctions if necessary.

While Western governments have focused on Iran’s nuclear capabilities, the Islamic Republic has been perfecting ballistic missiles that could strike Europe, claiming that they are not covered by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Going Ballistic: Responding to Iranian Missile Advances argues that Britain and other key European states should threaten to impose a new round of economic sanctions against Iranian individuals and entities associated with the ballistic missile programme – and reject Iranian claims that this would be forbidden under the 2015 deal.

With intermediate-range ballistic missiles, which it is suspected of testing, Tehran would be able to strike major European capitals such as London, Paris and Berlin. In the meantime, they have also been distributing weaponry to Hezbollah, as well as to the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The findings of the report establish the importance of demonstrating to Iran that its sustained efforts to acquire an ever-more lethal arsenal are unacceptable. The West cannot turn a blind eye to these advances by focusing solely on nuclear capabilities, while Iran distributes weaponry for geopolitical gain across the Middle East via proxy wars.

The report contains several recommendations to counter the threat of an Iran engaged in aggressive ballistic missile testing, including:

  • Rejecting the Iranian contention that economic sanctions imposed against those associated with the Iranian ballistic missile programme are in any way prohibited by the terms of the JCPOA.
  • Applying a policy of “extended responsibility” in order to deter use of the ballistic missiles distributed to proxy groups in Lebanon and Yemen. The West should regard any Iranian-produced or manufactured missile launched against a third party as a deliberate and hostile direct attack by Tehran itself.
  • Setting out clear red lines for the imposition of ballistic missile sanctions. This would provide much-needed clarity as to when key European states would adopt ballistic missile-related sanctions, creating a deterrent that would hinder Iran from engaging in continued testing.

Report author Timothy Stafford, Senior Research Fellow at The Henry Jackson Society, said:

“In the final hours before President Trump’s decision on the JCPOA, Europe’s best chance at keeping the deal alive lies in ensuring there is a focus not just on Iran’s nuclear programme but also on its development of ballistic missiles.

“In the two years since the nuclear deal was signed, Tehran has flagrantly carried on testing missiles capable of carrying increased payloads; has constructed missile facilities in Lebanon; and has armed its regional proxies: Hezbollah, and the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

“These moves threaten international peace and security by disrupting the Middle East’s delicate balance of power.

“It is time to call Iran out. Britain, France and Germany should endorse a much tougher approach, tying the imposition of sanctions to Iran’s efforts to acquire advanced missile capabilities and holding Tehran responsible for the weapons it exports to others. 

“These steps are not only an appropriate response to the growing nature of the Iranian threat, but offer the most viable means of discouraging the Trump Administration from withdrawing from the nuclear agreement in its entirety.”

Read the full report here.