Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif chat in Geneva during nuclear negotiations in January 2015
(State Department photo)
As some congressional Democrats fume over the Obama administration's reticence to confront Iran about its ballistic missile tests — nevermind introduce any real consequences — the Islamic Republic is defiantly expanding its missile programs.
Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan said at a ceremony in northern Iran on Monday that Tehran is not scaling back its program or even keeping production at pre-deal levels.
“We have not halted designing, producing and testing our missiles, (on the contrary) we have even increased our production,” Dehqan said, according to the semi-official Fars News Agency.
The news agency said the defense minister ranked missile production and military upgrades at the top of the country's agenda “to ensure protection against enemies.”
On Tuesday, the second-highest-ranking commander in Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps said that “anti-Iran resolutions” would have no bearing on the IRGC's determination to increase its “defense and deterrent power.”
Brigadier General Hossein Salami stressed “this is an independent and a national decision and has nothing to do with the resolutions,” according to Iran Press TV.
Last week, 21 Senate Democrats asked President Obama to not ignore Iran's second ballistic missile test, which was conducted in November.
“If there are no consequences for this violation, Iran’s leaders will certainly also question the willingness of the international community to respond to violations of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and UN Security Council Resolution 2231,” the Dems note in the letter sent to the president.
“The November test is Iran’s second recent violation of UNSCR 1929, which clearly states 'Iran shall not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using ballistic missile technology.' Clearly, the Security Council should take appropriate enforcement action against Iran in the face of this violation. On this matter, we recognize and appreciate United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power’s ongoing efforts to build support to enforce consequences for the October 10 ballistic missile test by referring the issue to the Iran Sanctions Committee and advocating for a forceful response by the UN Security Council. However, in the time it took the Panel of Experts to make a determination on the first violation, Iran tested another ballistic missile.”
Two of the senators on that letter, Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), voted against the Iran nuclear deal.
Another vocal opponent of the deal, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), fired off his own warning to Obama about Iran's violations and the International Atomic Energy Agency closing its Iran file.
“Iran did not come clean about its programs and intentions and it did not provide access to the people, places, and documents necessary for comprehensive findings on its past activities,” Menendez wrote to Obama. “…The fact is that Iran denied the existence of a nuclear weapons program that irrefutably exists, and – against unenforced United Nations resolutions and international will – is testing the conventional means to deliver a nuclear weapon that may have been (or still may be) within its capability to produce or acquire.”
Menendez has not received a response to an Oct. 19 letter he wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry about Iran, and noted that “in the silence since that letter, we have witnessed yet another Iranian test launch of a ballistic missile that, in the months to come, the United Nations will undoubtedly find has violated the same United Nations Security Council resolutions.”
“Will the administration take demonstrative actions so that Iran understands the consequences of violating the international order? What will those actions be?” the senator asked the president.
“How you respond to this challenge will send a message to the Iranian regime about its compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). In the meantime, we can expect that Iran will continue to test the limits of international order.”
Menendez recommended that Obama use his discretionary authority to adopt specific measures outside of the P5+1 deal “such as special designations of foreign nationals, including freezing assets and banning travel for individuals and entities that support or facilitate Iran’s ballistic missile proliferation.”
“I urge you to take action imminently in response to both ballistic missile test violations,” he said.