Thursday, July 23, 2015

Iran’s leadership views on military ramifications posed by JCPOA and UNSC Res. 2231

Sampling of recent quotes by Iran’s leadership in reference to JCPOA and UNSC Resolution 2231 (2015) and their potential impact on the country’s military, followed by a brief commentary at bottom of post:

“Issues related to ballistic missiles have never been on the agenda of the talks, and the [Islamic Republic] will implement its programs in this [aerospace] field with determination.” Minister of Defense IRGC Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehghan [source: Sepah News]

PMD issues with the [IAEA] have been agreed on, and we will act accordingly; certainly, we will not grant access to military secrets…to any authority.” Minister of Defense IRGC Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehghan [source: Sepah News]

“The Americans ought to have understood this meaning by now: [technological] developments do not standstill for these types of of equipment and weapons; we do not seek permission from any [external] authority to arm our country’s armed forces, and we equip our armed forces in proportion to threats.” Minister of Defense IRGC Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehghan [source: Sepah News]

“I can explicitly tell you that the Islamic Republic of Iran under no conditions will compromise on its defensive positions and will build any type of missile it deems appropriate— other than missiles that carry nuclear warheads— whether it be with liquid fuel or solid fuel, whether it be long range or short range.” Ali Akbar Velayati, President of Expediency Discernment Council's Center for Strategic Research [source: Khamenei.ir]

“Unlike the 1995 Dayton Accords that placed specific military restrictions on Bosnia, Iran will decide for itself what its military needs are and will build whatever it wants, whether it be “fighter jets, anti-aircraft weapons, tanks or other armored tools.” Ali Akbar Velayati, President of Expediency Discernment Council's Center for Strategic Research [source: Khamenei.ir]

“The missile and arms embargo, from the beginning has been [of limited impact] and will be removed after a certain period, and the violation of these sanctions will no longer be a violation of the agreement.” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif [source YJC.ir]

"[Possessing] ballistic missiles doesn not violate JCPOA… it is a violation of a paragraph in the annex of the [UNSC] Resolution 2231 which is non-binding." Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif [source YJC.ir]

“This paragraph [of the annex] references missiles with nuclear warheads capability, and since we don’t design any of our missiles for carrying nuclear weapons, this paragraph is not relevant to us at all.” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif [source YJC.ir]

“The arms embargo will end in a span of five years…The S-300 [SAM system] is not included in these restrictions and is outside the sphere of the IAEA.” Abbas Araghchi, Deputy for Legal and International Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs [source: Mashregh News]

“[The West] may make statements but Iran will in no way allow the inspection of military sites, nor will Iran allow interference on what types of defensive weapons Iran can or cannot have.” Abbas Araghchi, Deputy for Legal and International Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs [source: Mashregh News]

“First, I have to state one more time there is not one official in the Islamic Republic that is opposed to a good deal in the negotiations. Therefore, the foreign media have tried to create untrue polarization on the issue of the nuclear negotiations in the country.” IRGC Commander Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari [source: Tasnim News Agency]

“For me, as a military official, what is more important than anything else … is the protection and promotion of Iran’s defensive abilities.” IRGC Commander Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari [source: Tasnim News Agency]

On the agreement that the Security Council voted on, Jafari said, “Some points included in the draft [are] clearly contrary to and a violation of the red lines of the Islamic Republic of Iran, specifically of Iran’s arms capabilities and will never be accepted by us.” IRGC Commander Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari [source: Tasnim News Agency]

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COMMENTARY: Where certain American observers express concern that Iran would cheat on the nuclear agreement to embark upon or further advance a nuclear weapons program, Iranian figures express a parallel concern that Western countries would cheat by taking advantage of JCPOA provisions to inspect Iranian military sites for the purposes of espionage activities targeting their conventional arms military industrial complex. Iran's military is sensitive to any potential degrading of its deterrent force against attack, as are all militaries the world over.

While Iranian leadership may also display an annoyance to the perception of impinged sovereignty, in general they maintain that they possessed the upper hand in the nuclear negotiations in not possessing a nuclear weapons program, nor the desire to embark upon one-- meaning this part of the agreement was easy to trade away.

What's more, according to a high-profile Iranian commentator, for the Islamic Republic, the main payoff from the nuclear deal was not, first and foremost, sanctions relief.  Rather, “For Iran, what was important was to have a peaceful nuclear program.  So, the notion that Iran’s path towards a nuclear weapon is blocked is fine for Iranians because it’s not what they were doing in the first place.  The biggest gain for Iran here was the fact that its peaceful nuclear program, and the fuel cycle, was recognized…"

Zarif and the Iranian nuclear negotiators rendering of the annex referencing "missiles with nuclear warheads capability" is noteworthy, and appears to be another clever means of surmounting the divergence of positions that ultimately culminated in a JCPOA.

10 comments:

Nader Uskowi said...

This time we have a written agreement signed by Iran and the world powers, and not much need for interpretations by individuals. On military issues, the subject of this post, there are a five-year ban on weapons imports and a seven-year ban on development of ballistic missile used for carrying nuclear weapons. On inspections, suspected sites including military bases could be inspected by IAEA. Iran will have 24 days to make the facility available for inspection. If Iran rejects any such requests, an eight-member panel consisting of representative from Iran, P5+1 and EU will make the final decision by a majority (5) votes.

Piruz Mollazadeh said...

Wait, what does it mean to say that Iran can't "develop ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads"? Does that include Iran's regular ballistic missiles, like Shahab-3, Sejjil-2 and Qadr?

And how would the P5+1 even know whether these missiles are nuclear capable or not? By inspecting Iran's missile factories, maybe?

The deal looks worse every time I look deeper into the details!

Nader Uskowi said...

No details given; probably some limitations on payload capacity and the range.

Anonymous said...

Piruz Mollazadeh July 23, 2015 at 10:34 AM
The 2 quotes below says it all,specifically the first line of quote one,in short iran will continue to develope its ballistic missile technology as it sees fit,ballistic missiles were never a part of this negotiation
"[Possessing] ballistic missiles doesn not violate JCPOA… it is a violation of a paragraph in the annex of the [UNSC] Resolution 2231 which is non-binding." Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

“This paragraph [of the annex] references missiles with nuclear warheads capability, and since we don’t design any of our missiles for carrying nuclear weapons, this paragraph is not relevant to us at all.” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

Anonymous said...

Mark makes a very good point here.
 
I remember having this exact conversation with Mr. Uskowi on this blog not long ago, a few weeks after the interim agreement was reached, and Nader ended by telling me that the wording of the JCPOA was vague enough to provide both parties with viable space to reach an understanding on which type of missile is actually forbidden.
At the time it was about ICBMs in particular and nothing else, which didn't pose any kind of problem since for Iran as for any other country in the world, wasting resources and time into building conventionally fitted ICBMs make no tactical or even logical sense.
 
But now, basically ANY type of ballistic missile (as long as it is merely ballistic, in fact) gets out of reach for Iran. From SRBMs like the Fateh-110 all the way to IRBMs such as the Ghadr and Sejil-2. Poof, they’re all gone. After all, every ballistic program past WWII owes its inception to the idea of delivering a nuclear warhead on long distances and with high speed without caring for advanced accuracy. Conventionally-armed, tactical BMs only appeared a generation later, when significant strides in precision were rendered possible by emerging technology.
Considering the above, almost any type of ballistic missile today has the theoretical capability to be nuclear armed, we're not talking bulky Little Boys or Fat Boys anymore.
 
If every member of the P5+1 ultimately pushes Iran into applying the agreement to the letter, Tehran will find itself in an impossible situation where it is asked to surrender the main pillar of its defense doctrine and at the same time remain deprived from the means of acquiring a viable, credible alternative. Sadly it brings us back to military surrender… and again implies a sovereignty issue for Iran. Let alone the obvious risk of exposure to external aggression perpetrated by some neighboring prime minister officially stating it won't abide by any nuclear agreement in face of a persisting existential threat (or so he says).
 
The application of the JCPOA on that particular subject needs to be addressed with more flexibility than its current wording, otherwise hardliners in Iran won't at all be the only ones yelling strong opposition to the deal, but rather anyone in the country unwilling to see its own nation standing practically naked, with no rights to acquire conventional weapons for its air, sea and ground forces (no heavy artillery, tanks, "offensive" ordnance like ATGMs, and no fighter planes for 5 years, for reminders) nor to maintain or develop its own alternative strategic deterrence assets. It won't work as it stands. Iran's leadership won’t easily accept any scale-down of its missile inventory so long as the conventional arms embargo stays in place.
 
 
-A

Nader Uskowi said...

JCPOA actually removes the current arms embargo after five years and restrictions on ballistic missiles after seven years. Even with restrictions in place, Iran had carried on the development of its missile program and continued shipping arms to areas of conflict, like Syria. I assume they will do the same under JCPOA.

Technically, however, the restrictions on ballistic missiles and shipment of arms will be in violation of UNSC resolution for the next 7 and 5 years respectively, and member states could add penalties, like sanctions, if the provisions are violated, something they have not done until now, even though UNSCR was there. Of course the difference now is that Iran has signed off on those provision and the provisions were not passed against Iran's opposition. A fine point, but might make some military folks in Iran a bit nervous, I assume.

The reality is Iran has shipped arms to Iraq, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere, and has developed its ballistic missile program with no one taking action against it, and will be expected to continue now.

Anonymous said...

Nader Uskowi July 24, 2015 at 10:27 AM
Exactly!,finally some common sense on the issue,it makes a welcome change from the idiots on both sides screaming that its a bad deal,we got cheated,the sky is falling...etc

Anonymous said...

Mr Uskowi,

major regional and world powers have a dirty habit of transferring arms and finances, plus instigating unrest or fanning the flames of existing antagonisms in favor of anyone with the ability to foster their agendas in a given context, and so without an ounce of considering for the bigger human picture. Americans did it in Afghanistan and South American dictatorships in the 70s, the USSR did that with Saddam, Hafez Al Asad and his son, and Israel did so with the Gemayel's Phalangist militias, not often with reason but rather out of sheer shortsightedness based on self-interested schemes throughout history, which explains in part the current degree of complex, global destabilization going on as we speak, namely in the ME. By underlining that, you'd pretty much be preaching a convert.

Now, back on topic, aside from that, the fact that Iran , like every opponent of the NATO camp, has been systematically singled out for its similar practices in areas of conflict politically is a secret to none and has ignored that year after year, just like some US allies hold a record in UN Resolution violations.

But here, and please be welcome in correcting me if I happen to be wrong, the critical game-changing element is that the relevant paragraph containing in the JCPOA links any possible violation of Iran in regards to the continued development of its existing missile program and inventories to other applicable nuclear-related sanctions and allows a now famous "snap-back" mechanism to be at least debated in the U.N. Security Council if a member of the P5+1 wills it. It adds a whole new dynamic for the coming 7 years if it indeed results in Iran's missile deterrent being reduced, frozen of rolled back altogether just like its enrichment program. And a 5 year time-span within that 7 years period leaves Iran with little abilities to prevent external aggression from occurring if it ever seriously crosses a neighbor's mind.

And that would be assuming the unimaginable which is Tehran agreeing to kiss goodbye its most advanced, core armament programs... what do you think of such a take ?

-A

Nader Uskowi said...

The Iranians did agree to the provisions on arms embargo and ballistic missile limitation. These measures are no longer imposed on Iran, although Iran might have accepted them to get rid of sanctions, thinking that it could continue ignoring that part of the resolution as it has done in the past. A risky assumption, I agree, but probably a reasonable risk on Iran's part believing UNSC would not investigate/cite it for violation, as in the past five years.

Piruz Mollazadeh said...

So there's some sort of unofficial, unwritten understanding between Iran and the P5+1 that Iran's ballistic missile program will continue to expand rapidly the same way it always has, and that the UNSC will turn a blind eye to it.

I hope (and that is hoping for too much given the geo-strategic dynamics after the nuclear deal) that it doesn't cross the mind of any member in the security council (under pressure from their Middle Eastern allies or the future president of the U.S) that this "gap" could at some point be exploited and the the counter measures for this "violation" activated to counter Iran's foreign policy.

But what if the gap is in fact exploited? What are Iran's options then (options that don't include a diplomatic disaster like abandoning the deal altogether and going back to square one)?