On Sunday, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described
as "stupid and idiotic" Western expectations for his country to curb
its missile program. He decreed mass production of ballistic
weapons, striking a defiant tone just before nuclear talks resumed
on Wednesday in Vienna.
The high-stakes negotiations aim for a deal by a July 20 deadline to
end a long stand-off that has raised the risk of a wider Middle East
Tehran's often repeated view that missiles should not be part of the
nuclear talks appears to enjoy the support of Russia, one of the six
But a senior U.S. official made clear this week that Tehran's
ballistic capabilities must be addressed in the negotiations since
U.N. Security Council resolutions on Iran "among many other things,
do say that any missile capable of delivering a nuclear weapon must
be dealt with."
A ban on developing missiles suited to carrying a nuclear warhead is
included in a 2010 Security Council resolution, its fourth - and
toughest - imposed on the Islamic Republic for defying council
demands that it suspend uranium enrichment and other nuclear
activities of potential use in bomb-making.
The new report by the U.N. Panel of Experts, seen by Reuters, said
Iran's overall attempts to procure materials for its nuclear and
missile programs appeared to have slowed down as it pursues
negotiations with world powers that it hopes will bring an end to
But the same report makes clear that, apart from holding off on
test-firing one type of rocket, Iran shows no sign of putting the
brakes on the expansion of its missile program.
"Iran is continuing development of its ballistic missile and space
programs," the experts said, citing the August 2013 identification
of a new missile launch site near Shahrud and a larger missile and
satellite launch complex at the Imam Khomeini Space Center at Semnan
believed to be near completion.
The report also noted what it described as the June 2013 opening of
the Imam Sadeq Observation and Monitoring Center for monitoring
space objects, including satellites.
The dispute over missiles has already surfaced behind closed doors
in Vienna. On Wednesday, the first day of the latest round of the
nuclear talks, the U.S. delegation made clear that it wanted to
discuss both Iran's ballistic missile program and possible military
dimensions of its past nuclear research.
But in a sign of the wide divergence between the U.S. and Iranian
positions, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif merely
laughed and ignored the remarks, according to an Iranian official
present. An American official declined to comment but referred to
remarks from a senior U.S. official earlier this week, who said
"every issue" must be resolved.
NETANYAHU: U.N. REPORT SHOWS IRANIAN DECEPTION
Diplomats close to the talks say Britain, France and Germany agree
with the U.S. view. But Russia, which has engaged in
missile-technology trade with Iran, seems to disagree. Russian
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted by Iranian media as saying
that Tehran's missile program was not on the agenda.
The Islamic Republic denies accusations that it is seeking the
capability to make nuclear weapons. It insists that its missiles are
part of its conventional armed forces and rules out including them
on the agenda for the nuclear discussions.
Speaking to reporters at a meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck
Hagel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu raised the U.N.
panel's report, saying it showed how Tehran works "to deceive the
international community to continue to develop ICBMs
(intercontinental ballistic missiles).
"As the talks continue, one thing that must guide the international
community and that is we must not let the ayatollahs win, we mustn't
let the foremost terrorist state of our time, Iran, develop the
capability to produce nuclear weapons," the right-wing premier said
Hagel responded: "I want to assure you of the United States'
commitment to ensuring Iran does not get a nuclear weapon - and that
America will do what we must to live up to that commitment - which
is what President Obama said here in Israel last year."
Netanyahu has long made clear he believes talking with Iran is the
wrong approach and has clashed with Obama over it, and Israel has
threatened to bomb Iranian nuclear installations if it deems
diplomacy to have failed.
Netanyahu described an interim deal that the global powers struck
with Iran in November as "an historic mistake".
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However, Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association, a
Washington-based research and advocacy group, said that missiles
should not become a deal-breaker with the Iranians.
"The best way to address Iran's potential to exploit nuclear-capable
missiles is to ensure that Iran's nuclear program is sufficiently
limited and transparent," he said.
"To seek Iran-specific limits
on conventional weapons that Iran regards as vital to its
self-defense would jeopardize the negotiations' key objective."
An Iranian official confirmed that the ballistic missile program
would not be interrupted. "Iran purchases parts from various
countries, including Russia and China and then assembles missiles in
Iran," he said.
"Some Gulf countries have been involved in the missile delivery to
Iran. Iran has never stopped its missile program and has no
intention to do so; it gives Iran an upper hand."
The U.N. Panel of Experts, which monitors compliance with the U.N.
sanctions regime against Iran, said in its 49-page report that
monitoring Iranian missile work was not easy.
MISSILE WORK MORE HIDDEN THAN NUCLEAR ACTIVITY
"Analysis of Iran's ballistic missile program remains a challenge.
With the exception of several launches, periodic displays of
hardware and one recent revelation of a new ballistic launch
facility, the program is opaque and not subject to the same level of
transparency that Iran's nuclear activities are under IAEA
It said procurement for the missile program continues, with no
apparent changes in the type of materials Iran seeks.
"Among the most important items Iran is reportedly seeking are
metals as well as components for guidance systems and fuel," the
panel report said. "Similarities between Iran's ballistic missiles
and space programs can make it difficult for states to distinguish
the end-uses of procured items."
The experts said it was unclear why Iran appears not to have
test-fired a Sejil, its longest-range, solid-fuelled ballistic
missile, since 2011. This might be due to satisfaction with its
performance, an inability to procure components or ingredients for
solid fuel, or a shift to other missiles considered to be of higher
priority, according to the report.
"Iran may also have decided to suspend further testing which could
be interpreted as inconsistent with the spirit of the (six power)
negotiations," the experts assessed.
Nevertheless, the panel said that proof Iran is continuing to
develop the Sejil came from a 2013 parade of their launchers.
On February 10, Iran test-fired the Barani, which the experts said
the Iranian Defense Ministry had described as "a new generation of
long-range ballistic missiles capable of carrying multiple re-entry
vehicle (MRV) payloads." A MRV payload deploys multiple warheads in
a pattern against a single target.
Iran had announced no other ballistic test, the panel said.
According to Jane's Defense Weekly, Iran recently unveiled an
indigenous copy of the Lockheed Martin RQ-170 unmanned aerial
vehicle as well as "other, potentially more significant,
revelations" - including new versions of the Fateh-110 tactical
ballistic missile known as the Hormuz-1 and Hormuz-2.
Analysts say, however, that Iran has tended to exaggerate its
military achievements, including its missile capabilities.
(Additional reporting by Missy Ryan and Dan Williams in Jerusalem,
Fredrik Dahl and Justyna Pawlak in Vienna; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
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