Iran Missile Program
France, Germany, and the United Kingdom accused Iran of developing nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, alleging the move went against UN Security Council resolutions. Ambassadors from the three European nations urged UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in a letter circulated on 05 December 2019, to inform the council in his next report that Iran's ballistic missile activity is "inconsistent" with the 2015 nuclear deal.
The letter cited footage released on social media on April 22 of a previously unseen flight test of a new Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile variant "equipped with a manoeuvrable re-entry vehicle". "The Shahab-3 booster used in the test is a Missile Technology Control Regime category-1 system and as such is technically capable of delivering a nuclear weapon," it said. The Europeans noted that a 2015 report by the International Atomic Energy Agency on possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear programme concluded "that extensive evidence indicated detailed Iranian research in 2002-2003 on arming the Shahab-3 with a nuclear warhead".
France, Germany, and the UK gave four examples of "Iranian activity inconsistent" with the July 20, 2015, Security Council resolution endorsing the nuclear agreement, which was signed six days earlier. In addition to the April 23 flight test of the new Shahab-3 missile variant, it cited:
- The launch of the Borkan-3, "a new liquid-propelled medium-range ballistic missile" travelling about 1,300km (800 miles), which was announced by Iranian-backed Houthi forces in Yemen on August 2 and is an advancement of Iran's Qiam-1 missile.
- The July 24 launch of a ballistic missile that flew more than 1,000km (620 miles), which media reports indicated was a test launch of a Shahab-3 medium-range missile.
- The August 29 attempted launch, reported by Iranian media, of a Safir satellite launch vehicle, which was unsuccessful. UN experts have said such launch vehicles share "a great deal of similar materials and technology" with ballistic missiles.
The European letter said these activities "are the latest in a long series of advances in Iranian ballistic missile technology", and "furthermore, Iran continues its proliferation of ballistic missile technology in the region" in violation of Security Council resolutions.
The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) fired six mid-range surface to surface missiles from western Iran into Syria's Deir al Zour province on 18 June 2017, to punish perpetrators of recent terror attacks in Tehran. After the Takfiri terrorists' June 7 attacks in Tehran which left 17 killed and dozens more wounded, the IRGC had announced that the spilling of innocent blood will not go unanswered.
This was the first attack of its kind carried out by the Islamic Republic in years. Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered weekend missile strikes on Islamic State targets in Syria, the Guards said, contradicting a previous report that they were authorized by the country's security council.
Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri said on 19 June 2017 that due to the efforts of the Iranian scientists, Islamic Republic is now among top countries in terms of missile power. General Baqeri noted that Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution inspired several freedom-seeking movements in the world. The dominant powers and the Zionists are manipulating Takfiri ideology against the Islamic Revolution to prevent its spread in the world, he said.
Iran claimed 23 May 2017 to have built a third underground ballistic missile production facility and said it will continue developing its missile program, a move that will surely increase tensions between the country and the United States. Speaking with the semi-official Fars news agency, General Amir-Ali Hadjizadeh, the head of Iran’s aerospace program, said the facility had been completed in “recent years.” "We are going to develop our ballistic power. It's normal that our enemies, that is to say the United States and Israel, are angry when we show off our underground missile bases because they want the Iranian people to be in a position of weakness," he said.
The US Treasury Department announced 03 February 2017 new sanctions on Iran in response to the country's recent missile test launch. Thirteen individuals and 12 entities were sanctioned. Some are based in China, the United Arab Emirates and Lebanon. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Iran remained undeterred by U.S. threats. "Iran unmoved by threats as we derive security from our people," Zarif wrote.
Iran confirmed 01 February 2017 that it carried out a missile launch 29 January 2017, but said this did not violate the nuclear agreement by six world powers and Tehran in 2015. UN Security Council Resolution 2231, adopted after the nuclear deal was reached, called on Iran not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles, but it did not specifically ban such activity.
Trump's national security adviser, Michael Flynn, condemned the missile launch 01 February 2017, declaring it "just the latest in a series of incidents" in which Iran has threatened the U.S. and its regional allies over the past six months. He said leaders in Tehran had been emboldened to take such action now because the nuclear agreement was "weak and ineffective," and because the other nations involved in the agreement failed to rein in Iran's military ambitions.
“The Obama administration failed to respond adequately to Tehran’s malign actions — including weapons transfers, support for terrorism and other violations of international norms,” Flynn said. “The Trump administration condemns such actions by Iran that undermine security, prosperity and stability throughout and beyond the Middle East and place American lives at risk.”
Flynn added, "As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice." He did not explain his comment further or threaten any specific action against Tehran.
Donald Trump said 02 February 2017 that "Iran has been formally PUT ON NOTICE for firing a ballistic missile. Should have been thankful for the terrible deal the U.S. made with them!... Iran was on its last legs and ready to collapse until the U.S. came along and gave it a life-line in the form of the Iran Deal: $150 billion."
Later, at a White house meeting with Harley-Davidson executives and union members, Trump said "nothing is off the table" in response to a reporter who asked whether military action against Iran was an option.
Progress on indigenous missile production was often reported by one source or another in Teheran, perhaps falsely, to demonstrate that Iran was a growing power against Israel and to intimidate its other enemies in the region. However, Iran continued to rely primarily on limited North Korean missile production capacity. North Korea's perilous economic condition and the consequent possibility that it would have to moderate its "rogue state" character in order to survive, could leave Iran without an adequate and reliable supplier of missiles in a war.
After the end of the Iran-Iraq war, the US exerted great pressure on Russia, China, India, and other countries to withhold nuclear reactor technology from Iran. Despite occasional reports that Iran had acquired weapon-grade fissile materials from external sources or had produced such material from its own reactors, into the mid-1990s there was no hard evidence that Iran had been hiding a nuclear weapons development program. Ambiguous statements from various Iranian officials about progress in acquiring nuclear weapons could have, like reports of indigenous missile production, reflected a deliberate policy of magnifying Iran's power by exaggerating its capabilities. The statements could also have reflected an indecision by Iranian authorities about the need for such weapons.
Indeed, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections of Iranian nuclear facilities in 1992 and 1993 did not reveal any activities inconsistent with peaceful power development and Iran's obligations as a signatory to the NPT. Still, it was felt that the relentless US opposition to Iran's (legal) nuclear power development and pressure on potential suppliers of nuclear technology significantly impeded any program Iran could have had underway at the time to acquire nuclear weapons, substantiating US and Israeli estimates that acquisition of nuclear weapons could take Iran as long as 7 to 15 years (from 1995).
Iran had developed a chemical warfare capability as a response to Iraqi chemical attacks on Iranian troops during the Gulf War. By the end of the war, Iran was said to have been producing nerve agents and other offensive chemicals for delivery by artillery shells and aerial bombs. Jane's estimated Iran's stockpile of various agents in the 1990s at between several hundred and 2,000 tons. Syria and North Korea, both having missiles with chemical warheads, could also have assisted Iran in developing such warheads for its missiles. Reports that Iran had been sponsoring work on biological weapons were unconfirmed.
Iran was still recovering economically and militarily from the destruction of the Gulf War with Iraq by the end of the 20th century, and according to various sources the process was still ongoing after 2000. Although suspected by the US (and other countries) of sponsoring terrorist acts against American personnel and facilities, Iran did not possess a direct ballistic missile or other military threat to the continental US, Hawaii, or possessions. Moreover, Iran was not seen as likely in the near-term to develop an indigenous capacity to produce nuclear payloads for any of its missiles or strike aircraft. Iran could have been building a capacity for weaponizing chemical and biological agents, but whether producing these "poor man's atomic bombs" were for offensive or deterrence purposes was not readily evident.
Most of the Iranian missile development industry was located in Karaj, outside Tehran. Iran's missile infrastructure also included a Chinese-built missile plant near Semnan, larger North Korean-built plants at Isfahan and Sirjan (which could produce liquid fuels and some structural components), and missile test facilities at Shahroud and the Shahid Hemat Industrial Group research facility just south of Tehran. Historically Iranian missile "production" largely consisted of the assembly of kits of imported parts. However, the Scud B system was said to be produced using a significant proportion of locally manufactured components.
Iranian missile inventories, as with much of their arsenal, were historically highly uncertain, though lower estimates were perhaps somewhat more credible than the upper range of the higher estimates. Iran was estimated to have at least 50 and as many as 300 Scud Bs, with a range of about 200 miles, and at least 50 and as many as 450 Scud Cs, with a range of some 300 miles. In 1995 the International Institute for Strategic Studies estimated in their annual publication The Military Balance, that Iran had approximately 210 Scud B/C type missiles, and another 200 Chinese M-7 (DF-7/CSS-8) missiles, reportedly imported in 1989. These estimates remained static through 2000, but by 2005 their estimates of Scud types had gone to 300, and their estimates of M-7s to 175 (though they did report unknown numbers of the Nazeat series, also known as the Mushak series, which were copies of the Chinese missile). These subsequent estimates remained static through 2008.
Also in development in the late 1990s were derivatives of North Korea's No-Dong missile, which entered service in 2002. Called Shahab-3 (meteor or shooting star in Farsi) the missiles gave Iran a capability with twice the range of the existing Scud-C/Shahab-2 missiles it had in service, with a range of 1,300 kilometers. Iran was estimated of have anywhere from 25 to 100 of the missiles in service. In development were Shahab-4/5/6, successors to the Shahab-3 and also based on North Korean designs (No-Dong and Taepo-Dong designs).
Iran had been eager to acquire China's M-9 (600 km/500 kg) and M-11 (300 km/500 kg) single-stage, solid-fuel, road-mobile missiles, but US pressure on China had prevented transfers. The Tondar-68 (1,000 km/500 kg) and the Iran-700 (700 km/500kg) were other reported development programs that depended on continuing Chinese assistance, according to Jane's. China was also believed to be assisting Iran in extending the range of the operational HY-1 (85 km/400 kg) and the HY-2 (110 km/500 kg) cruise missiles, which posed a greater threat to shipping in the Persian Gulf.
The inauguration of the Permanent Exhibition of Strategic Capabilities of the IRGC Air Force called "National Aerospace Park" was held on 27 Septembe 2020. Iran's Parliament Speaker Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf, the Chief Commander of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) Major General Hossein Salami, and other high-ranking government and military officials attended the ceremony. In this exhibition, the various achievements of the IRGC Air Force from the beginning of its formation until now in missiles, air defense, UAVs, air operations, and space are displayed in a vast area.
On the sideline of the 'National Aerospace Park' expo inauguration ceremony on 27 September 2020, Major General Hossein Salami said the strategic achievements in the field of the aerospace industry is a clear symbol of Iran's self-confidence, a major part of which has been attained during the sanction era. General Salami noted that the achievements indicate that Iran has managed to turn the sanctions to accelerating opportunities in defense areas. Noting that the exposition shows the comprehensive model of Iran's deterrent power, he said today's war is a war of wills, and the Iranian nation, knowing its clear path, continues it with strong determination.
In this exhibition, IRGC missile achievements including Nazeat, Simorgh, Khorramshahr, Shahab III, Fatih F, Fatih A, Safir Fajr, Sejjil, Zolfaghar, Ta'er II, Taer III, Sam VI, Dezfool missiles as well as 3rd Khordad, Tabas, HQ2, Ghadir, Kasshef, Matla' Fajr I and II, Kavosh air defense systems and some other defense systems are showcased. Iran's Space Launch System (first mobile satellite launcher platform), kheibar missile system, Zolfaghar twin-arm launcher, and satellite carriers of Safir, Simorgh and Fajr have also been showcased. Also, Ghiam, Eskad, Ghadr, Nazeat, Hormoz, Persian Gulf, Dezfool, and Zohair missiles besides Mohajer II, Talash, Saegheh, Ababil II, Karrar, Sayeh, Shahid 125, Shahed 121, Shahed 191, Shahed 161, Shahed 171, and Shahed 129 drones have been exhibited.
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