Is Iran’s missile program inconsistent with Resolution 2231?
The Russian representative to the UN sent a letter to Guterres on November 26 stating that Iran is a full member of the UN, and the country is a member of many non-proliferation mechanisms, such as the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
He said none of the treaties, including Resolution 2231, ban Iran from developing missile and space programs. The Russian representative further emphasized in his letter that there is no evidence that Iran is developing or producing nuclear weapons or even the means for their launch. The country also is not deploying infrastructure for storing nuclear weapons.
Concerning this issue, we have prepared for you an article written by ‘Javad Heiran Nia’ under the heading: “Is Iran’s missile program inconsistent with Resolution 2231? The article was taken from the website of Iran’s English language daily ‘Tehran Times’.
France, Britain, and Germany sent a letter to the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on December 4 in which they claimed that some of Iran’s ballistic missile activities are inconsistent with the UN Security Council Resolution 2231.
In the letter circulated among the Security Council members, the three European countries, which are signatory to the Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), urged Guterres to describe Iran’s ballistic missiles as inconsistent with Resolution 2231 in the next report on the country’s missile program.
Resolution 2231 calls on Iran to restrain the development of a specific type of missile. The request is not legally binding.
However, the Resolution 1929, which was canceled when the Resolution 2231 was adopted in July 2015, stated: “The UN Security Council decides that Iran shall not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons”.
The important question is which organization is supposed to verify countries’ missile programs? That is, based on which rule, the European countries have considered Iran’s missile program in contravention with Resolution 2231 and believed that Iran has nuclear-capable missiles?
Peter Jenkins, former UK Ambassador to the IAEA and UN, recently responded to a letter from the E3 in an interview with the Mehr news agency, saying, “No international treaty prohibits ownership or purchase of short-range, medium-range or Intercontinental missiles.
The list of the countries that own missiles in the Arms Control Association website indicates that more than 30 states own one or more of mentioned missiles. The 2004 UNSC resolution imposes legal obligations on all countries regarding launcher vehicles for special weapons (such as missiles), but the obligations do not prohibit their production and ownership”.
In this regard, the Russian representative to the UN sent a letter to Guterres on November 26 stating that Iran is a full member of the UN, and the country is a member of many non-proliferation mechanisms, such as the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. He said none of the treaties, including Resolution 2231, ban Iran from developing missile and space programs.
The Russian representative further emphasized in his letter that there is no evidence that Iran is developing or producing nuclear weapons or even the means for their launch. The country also is not deploying infrastructure for storing nuclear weapons. Therefore, the Russian Federation insists on its former assessment, stating that Iran has respected Paragraph 3 of Annex B of Resolution 2231, which calls on the country not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
It should be noted that there is no international organization to verify whether missiles are defensive or not. On the missile issue, there are only two universal treaties, the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and The Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCOC), which are a voluntary set of clarification and confidence-building.
Following the letter from the E3, the U.S. once again commented on Iran's missile program. Brian Hook, Head of the Iran Action Group, claimed, “One of the deficiencies of the Iran nuclear deal is that it ended the prohibition on Iran's ballistic missile testing.”
Mark Fitzpatrick, the Executive Director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), said on December 2, 2018, “Not to excuse Iran's missile test, but it is not a ‘violation’ of UNSCR 2231, which only ‘calls upon’ Iran not conduct such tests. It also calls all member states to refrain from actions that undermine implementation of JCPOA commitments. So if Iran is in violation so is the U.S.”
According to international law, a state has no right to refer to a treaty that it has rejected and not observed. Therefore, the U.S. has no legal right to claim that Iran has violated Resolution 2231 or failed to comply with its articles, while Washington itself violates the resolution.
Iran’s missile program is defensive and deterrent. Tehran has said that it will negotiate about its missile program if there is no missile threat.
In this regard, in an interview with NBC News on July 15, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said, “"If you want to discuss ballistic missiles, then we need to discuss the amount of weapons sold to our region".
Iranian foreign minister added, “These are American weaponry that is going into our region, making our region ready to explode. So if they want to talk about our missiles, they need first to stop selling all these weapons including missiles to our region."
Furthermore, Iran's Foreign Minister says the letter written to the UN chief by three European signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), is aimed at hiding their “miserable incompetence” in fulfilling their commitments under the accord.
Zarif made the remarks in a recent tweet in which he said, “Latest E3 letter to UNSG on missiles is a desperate falsehood to cover up their miserable incompetence in fulfilling bare minimum of their own #JCPOA obligations.”
In another part of his tweet, Zarif chided the three European countries for giving in to US pressures on Iran and failing to compensate for Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA, which was followed by re-imposition of "the toughest ever" sanctions on Tehran.
Zarif said “If E3 want a modicum of global credibility, they can begin by exerting sovereignty rather than bowing to US bullying.”
US President Donald Trump pulled his country out of the JCPOA in May 2018 and re-imposed harsh sanctions against Iran, calling for a “new deal” that would address Iran’s national missile program and its anti-terrorism role in the region.
The European signatories vowed to make efforts to compensate for Washington’s withdrawal and shield their business links with Iran from the American sanctions.
Those promises, however, were never delivered as Europe gave into America’s pressure, prompting Tehran to resort to Articles 26 and 36 of the JCPOA on its legal rights and suspend parts of its commitments under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Zarif also published another tweet, in which he released the complete text of a letter sent to the UN chief as well as the President of the Security Council Kelly Craft a day earlier by the Head of Iran's mission to the United Nations Majid Takht Ravanchi.
Before giving the full text of the letter, Zarif wrote: “Detailed, legal rebuttal of the E3 letter to the UN by Iran's Ambassador and Permanent Representative.”
In that letter, Iran's ambassador to UN had rebutted claims leveled by the EU3 against Iran's missile activities, noting that the countries activities “related to space launch vehicles and ballistic missiles fall outside of the purview of competence of Resolution 2231 (2015) and its annexes.”
The letter added, “….given the mandate set forth in the note by the President of the Security Council on Security Council tasks under Resolution 2231 …, the secretary general is therefore expected to avoid reporting on such irrelevant activities in his reports on the implementation of that resolution.”
It read “At the same time, the international community must be extremely vigilant regarding the politically motivated approach by the United Nations and certain other industrialized countries, which, under such absurd pretexts as proliferation concerns, attempt to demonize benign technologies such as space technology that are critical for the socioeconomic development of all nations, particularly developing countries.”
Iran's ambassador to UN concluded by saying, “I would like to stress once against that Iran is determined to resolutely continue its activities related to ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles, both of which are within its inherent rights under international law and are necessary for securing its security as well as socioeconomic interests.