Above: TEL-mounted Iranian IRGC-ASF MRBMs on parade, Sacred Defense Week 2012
Per Gareth Porter in Asia Times Online:
The Barack Obama administration's insistence that Iran discuss its ballistic missile program in the negotiations for a comprehensive nuclear agreement brings its position into line with that of Israel and senators who introduced legislation drafted by the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC aimed at torpedoing the negotiations.
But the history of the issue suggests that the Obama administration knows that Iran will not accept the demand and that it is not necessary to a final agreement guaranteeing that Iran's nuclear program is not used for a weapon.
White House spokesman Jay Carney highlighted the new US demand in a statement Wednesday that the Iranians "have to deal with matters related to their ballistic missile program".
Carney cited United Nations Security Council resolution 1929, approved in 2010, which prohibited any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including missile launches. "So that's completely agreed by Iran in the Joint Plan of Action," he added.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif not only explicitly contradicted Carney's claim that Iran had agreed to discuss ballistic missiles but warned that a US demand for discussion of its missile program would violate a red line for Iran.
"Nothing except Iran's nuclear activities will be discussed in the talks with the [six powers known as the P5+1], and we have agreed on it," he said, according to Iran's IRNA.
The pushback by Zarif implies that the US position would seriously risk the breakdown of the negotiations if the Obama administration were to persist in making the demand.
Contrary to Carney's statement, the topic of ballistic missiles is not part of the interim accord reached last November. The Joint Plan of Action refers only to "addressing the UN Security Council resolutions, with a view toward bringing to a satisfactory conclusion the UN Security Council's consideration of this matter" and the formation of a "Joint Commission" which would "work with the IAEA to facilitate resolution of past and present issues of concern".It would be politically untenable for the Rouhani administration to render compromised what Iran's defense spcialists consider a vital pillar of their defense doctrine based on deterrence from attack: their ballistic missile force, indigenous manufacturing program and research/development. If it were to do so, the Rouhani administration--which is already out on a political limb with its ongoing nuclear talks-- would no doubt be cited by political power centers inside Iran for being irresponsible and derelict in its duty to protect the country.