An October 11 ballistic missile launch by Iran has raised the concern of the U.S. and its allies, the first such test since the so-called “P5+1” nuclear deal was reached in July of this year. The test was not in violation of that agreement, but it did violate a UN Security Council resolution that was adopted in June 2010, banning Iran from “any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using ballistic missile technology.”
U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power stated during a UN meeting this month that the missile used in the launch “is inherently capable of delivering a nuclear weapon.” She went on to say, “We call on the (sanctions) committee, with the support of the independent UN panel of experts, to review this matter quickly and recommend appropriate action.”
President Obama stated that Iran has often violated UN rules governing ballistic missile tests, but seemed to do so as a means of defending the recent nuclear deal.
The missile is suspected to be a newer iteration of the Shahab-3 medium range ballistic missile (MRBM) incorporating a maneuverable re-entry vehicle. Iranian Defense Minister General Hossein Dehghan stated that the test, “will obviously boost the strategic deterrence capability of our armed forces.”
The timing of the test should be worrisome to officials hoping that the July nuclear deal succeeds in preventing Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon. Because of their limited payload capacity, a MRBM is typically only used with a nuclear warhead.
One promising sign came this week when Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued his first public endorsement of the nuclear deal. Khamenei’s approval was a final step in Iran’s internal process for approving the deal, which means that the dismantling of thousands of enrichment centrifuges can now begin. Khamenei maintained habit of condemning the U.S. in his endorsement, stating that the deal contained “structural weaknesses.”