Recently, Iran conducted a successful test of a new precision-guided, long-range ballistic missile—dubbed “Emad.”
This test is an outright violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2231, which states that “Iran is called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology” for a period of eight years.
Obama Administration Failures
The Emad missile test highlights the Obama Administration’s failures in negotiating the Iran nuclear agreement (also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA). Administration officials, including the President, promised, on multiple occasions, that the deal would halt Iran’s ballistic missile program. Yet a mere three months after the agreement was signed, Iran has tested its first precision-guided, long-range missile.
Iran’s violation of UNSCR 2231 further demonstrates what should have already been obvious: Iran cannot be trusted to uphold its obligations under international law. The Obama Administration, however, has imprudently committed itself to that trust by agreeing to the JCPOA’s flawed verification procedures, which outsource monitoring to the International Atomic Energy Agency and allow Iran plenty of time before inspections to hide incriminating evidence.
The Need for New Action
Iran’s latest transgression highlights the need for new action in the face of Iranian transgressions. Middle East expert James Phillips argues that the next U.S. President should use Iranian malfeasance as grounds to invalidate the JCPOA, re-impose and expand sanctions on Iran, strengthen the U.S. military to deter Iran from attaining a nuclear capability, and renegotiate a better deal.
In the meantime, however, we are stuck with the flawed agreement. Thus, it is increasingly essential that the U.S. rejuvenate its missile defense program, which has languished during the Obama Administration. In FY 2009, the Administration killed advanced programs like the Airborne Laser that would target missiles in the boost and ascent phases, when a missile is at its most vulnerable.
Bolstering National Defense
President Obama should reinstitute these programs, which are essential for a comprehensive, layered missile defense. The Administration should also pursue fielding space-based interceptors, a neglected option for targeting missiles during the boost phase.
The U.S. should bolster its deteriorating alliances in the Middle East by sharing missile defense technology with Israel and Arab allies. These countries are particularly vulnerable to Iran’s ballistic missile program. Washington can and should use enhanced missile defense cooperation to hold its balance against Iran and reassure U.S. allies. The U.S. should also be prepared to use its own missile defense assets to defend allies against an Iranian attack.
The JCPOA is a flawed agreement that gives Iran free rein to continue its ballistic missile program. The Administration should enhance U.S. missile defense capabilities in order to fulfill its responsibility to protect the U.S. and its allies.