March 9, 2016 | Policy Brief

IRGC’s Latest Ballistic Missile Test Underscores Need for Sanctions

March 9, 2016 | Policy Brief

IRGC’s Latest Ballistic Missile Test Underscores Need for Sanctions

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) held a series of ballistic missiles drills over the last few days, launching next-generation short-, medium-, and long-range missiles from silos and missile bases built underground and in mountains. The head of the IRGC Aerospace Force – which controls Tehran’s missile program – hailed the test as the product of the Guard’s resistance to international sanctions, boasting, “The Guard Corps doesn’t give into threats.” In Washington, the Obama administration said it would raise the matter in the UN Security Council for an “appropriate response.”

This is the third incident of ballistic missile testing since last summer’s nuclear agreement. If previous tests are any guide, the international community will make no serious effort to penalize the regime for it, even though the tests violate the Security Council resolution endorsing the nuclear accord, which calls on Tehran not to launch ballistic missiles or develop projectiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

Iran insists that these missiles are not expressly designed to carry warheads and therefore do not violate the resolutions. But as the U.S. director of national intelligence has confirmed, Iran’s long-range ballistic missiles are “inherently capable” of delivering nuclear weapons.

The Islamic Republic has long sought to deceive the international community over its research and development of nuclear-weapons delivery systems. The International Atomic Energy Agency’s December 2015 assessment of the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program found that Tehran had experimented with integrating a nuclear warhead onto a Shahab-3 ballistic missile. Iran has refused to provide detailed explanations to the IAEA on these experiments.

Iran is also preparing to launch a satellite into orbit that, according to U.S. intelligence, can be used for intercontinental-ballistic-missile (ICBM) delivery. Given the similarity between satellite-launch and ICBM technology – and Tehran’s track record of duplicity – it is reasonable to investigate whether the launch is being used as cover for a parallel ICBM program.

All of this comes just seven weeks after the implementation of the nuclear agreement and its attendant sanctions relief. Since then, the IRGC has been unwavering in its insistence that the agreement would not change its aggressive regional behavior. The Guard has escalated its military involvement in Syria, fired rockets near U.S. vessels in the Persian Gulf, and broadcasted triumphant images of U.S. sailors seized at gunpoint.

These latest tests have made it clear that without significant new sanctions on Iran’s aggressive foreign policies and the sectors of Iran’s economy that support its missile industry, Tehran has no incentive to halt either. This could have a direct impact on American security.

Amir Toumaj is a research analyst at Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow him on Twitter @AmirToumaj.