October 16, 2023 | Flash Brief

Expiration of UN Ban on Iran’s Missile Development Will Strengthen U.S. Adversaries

October 16, 2023 | Flash Brief

Expiration of UN Ban on Iran’s Missile Development Will Strengthen U.S. Adversaries

Latest Developments

United Nations (UN) prohibitions that seek to constrain Iran’s missile and drone activity are set to expire on October 18. If they do and no snapback of sanctions is initiated by a nation still party to the 2015 nuclear deal and its companion UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2231, Iran would be free to sell its ballistic missiles and related long-range strike technologies to its anti-Western partners and clients.

Iran’s partners, such as Russia, would likely use the missiles to facilitate its invasion of Ukraine, while proxies, such as Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and the Houthis, may get fresh access to ballistic missile technology. Iran’s profits from missile sales could also go toward funding its numerous terrorist proxies.

Expert Analysis

“Lapsing UN penalties on Iran’s ballistic missile tests, transfers, and other activities will be yet another sign of the international community’s irresolution to say and do the right thing on Iran. It will, therefore, embolden Iran to double down on its terror proxies and arms proliferation. The more confident Tehran feels, the more lethal the threat.” — Behnam Ben Taleblu, FDD Senior Fellow

“The snapback of UN sanctions on Iran is long overdue to make clear to Tehran that the international community won’t tolerate its arming of Hamas and other terrorist proxies to attack Israel or supply Russia’s war against Ukraine. President Biden must work with our European partners to initiate the snapback and maintain these missile and drone embargoes, restore arms restrictions, and prevent nuclear sunsets from kicking in.” — Andrea Stricker, FDD Research Fellow and Deputy Director of FDD’s Nonproliferation and Biodefense Program

Iran Violates Missile Prohibitions

Prohibitions in UNSCR 2231 set to lapse this week include sanctions on key persons and entities connected to Iran’s nuclear and military infrastructures. Annex B of that resolution prohibits activities like development, tests, military employment, and others.

In violation of the UN prohibitions, however, Iran has already continued to develop and test ballistic missiles, conducting at least 230 ballistic missile launches since 2015. Tehran recently tested a Qased Space-Launch Vehicle that placed a satellite into space. Earlier this year, the regime tested the nuclear capable Khorramshahr-4 medium-range ballistic missile and displayed the new Fattah ballistic missile that Iran claims hypersonic. If the UN prohibitions expire, a newly emboldened Tehran would likely further strengthen and expand its development and proliferation of missiles.

Europe Acknowledges Violations

While the United Kingdom, France, and Germany — known as the E3 — said in September that they plan to retain their own missile and nuclear proliferation-related sanctions on Iran after October 18, the countries are not acting to snap back UN sanctions or extend the UN’s missile sanctions. A full snapback of sanctions would require a letter sent to the UN Security Council informing it of Iran’s noncompliance with UNSCR 2231.

Iran’s ballistic missile capabilities are a growing threat to Europe,” by Behnam Ben Taleblu

The clock is ticking on UN missile and drone prohibitions against Iran,” by Anthony Ruggiero and Andrea Stricker

Biden must act on Iran’s drone and missile transfers,” by Behnam Ben Taleblu and Andrea Stricker

Arsenal: Assessing the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Ballistic Missile Program,” by Behnam Ben Taleblu


International Organizations Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran Missiles Iran Nuclear Iran-backed Terrorism Israel Russia