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Concerns rise over Iranian missiles

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Update from AIJAC

April 15, 2016

Update 04/16 #5


Since the completion of the Iran nuclear deal, know as the JCPOA, last July, an ongoing concern has been the continuation of the Iranian ballistic missile program, with provocative missile tests by Iran last October and in March. For instance, last week, US Secretary of State John Kerry visited the region to attempt to mollify Arab state criticism from Arab states of US handling of the Iran nuclear deal, including issues regarding missiles.

This Update features some analyses of the concerns about the missiles and suggestions about what more can be done. It also features a related story - with analysis  - concerning Iran allegedly getting the S-300 advanced air defence system from Russia. This could make its nuclear facilities vastly more difficult to strike in the event Iran reneges on its commitments under the JCPOA - after years of diplomatic efforts to prevent this outcome.

The first piece, by Tzvi Kahn of the Foreign Policy Initiative, reviews the history of the controversy over Iranian missile development, and suggests that only renewed sanctions can deal with Iran's behaviour. Kahn notes that recent calls by the US Administration to make a "new arrangement" with Iran over missiles is in effect a concession that existing arrangements - and especially UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2231, passed to give legal effect to the JCPOA - are not working. He notes the US Administration previously claimed that  the weaker language in 2231 on missiles compared to previous UN resolutions did not matter, but has now conceded that it does, with Russia blocking any UN action over Iran's missiles on the grounds that the resolution does not unequivocally forbid them, making sanctions appear the only option. For his full discussion, CLICK HERE. Meanwhile, despite the rejection of missile talks by Iran, the US Administration is still fighting new congressional sanctions.

Next up, two military experts, former American General Charles Wald and former Pentagon civilian official Michael Makovsky, argue that new sanctions are not likely to be enough to counter Iran's missile development efforts. They call for the deployment of anti-ballistic missile (ABM) systems in Iran's region to both punish Iranian behaviour and reassure Iran's concerned neighbours. They suggest that the US can severely set back Iran's missile program if it makes it clear that missile tests in violation of Iran's obligations will be shot down - and similar tactics have worked with Iran before. For their argument in full,  CLICK HERE

Finally, Washington Institute for Near East Policy expert Farzin Nadimi looks at both the evidence for, and and the implications of, reports that Iran is now receiving components of the S-300 air defence system from Russia - a development which has long worried regional strategic planners. Nadimi reviews the history of the controversy over the Russian agreement to sell Iran the S-300 going back to 2007. He also notes that the system now being deployed appears to be an older first generation version of the S-300, not the second generation model Iran was expected to receive, and that, while it will significantly upgrade Iran's air defences, it will take considerable time to deploy it and integrate it with existing defences. For this expert important look at a major and concerning strategic development, CLICK HERE

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Kerry Admits Iran Deal Not Working

 Tzvi Kahn

FPI Bulletin, April 14

Secretary of State John Kerry's recent call for a "new arrangement" with Tehran to curb its ballistic missile program constitutes an admission that the U.N. resolution tied to the July 2015 nuclear deal has failed to stem Iran's misbehavior. Rather than offer new concessions if Iran halts its missile launches, the White House should impose stronger economic sanctions aimed at compelling Iran's compliance with longstanding international demands.
 
Over the past nine months, the Obama administration has repeatedly argued that the prohibition on Iranian ballistic missile development in U.N. Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2231 constitutes a binding legal obligation. In a Senate hearing last July, Kerry falsely claimed that the resolution contains the "exact same language" as the ballistic missile proscription in UNSCR 1929 (2010). In fact, UNSCR 1929 employed compulsory language stating that Tehran "shall not" advance ballistic missile-related activity, whereas UNSCR 2231 states only that the regime is "called upon" to forgo such activity, indicating that Iran has no legal requirement to comply.
 
However, the two resolutions partially overlap, since UNSCR 2231 mandated that the restrictions in UNSCR 1929 would remain in effect until the nuclear deal's Implementation Day, which arrived on January 16, 2016. Thus, Iran's ballistic missile tests in October and November of last year flouted both the binding prohibitions in UNSCR 1929 and the non-binding injunctions in UNSCR 2231. Still, the U.N., backed by a White House fearful of antagonizing the regime, failed to act.
 
The day after Implementation Day, the Obama administration imposed unilateral U.S. sanctions targeting subsidiaries of companies that America had already sanctioned — a move that amounted to pinpricks. Furthermore, at a Senate hearing in February, Kerry told lawmakers that he opposed congressional action to impose further sanctions. "I wouldn't welcome them at this moment in time," he said, "given the fact that we've given them a warning, and if they decide to do another launch, then I think there's a rationale."
 
In March, Iran provided such a rationale by again testing ballistic missiles, demonstrating that the sanctions imposed in January had no deterrent effect. By this time, however, the binding restriction in UNSCR 1929 had expired, leaving only the non-binding prohibition in UNSCR 2231. Therefore, the United States and its European allies responded with a letter declaring the tests were "inconsistent with" UNSCR 2231, but they did not allege that Iran had actually violated the resolution. As Russian Ambassador to the U.N. Vitaly Churkin noted, "A call is different from a ban so legally you cannot violate a call, you can comply with a call or you can ignore the call, but you cannot violate a call. The legal distinction is there."
 
At first, the administration denied the significance of the letter's omission. In a Senate hearing last week, the State Department's third-ranking official acknowledged that UNSCR 1929 and UNSCR 2231 contain contrasting language, but nevertheless contended that UNSCR 2231's prohibition imposes a legal obligation. "For me, it's a distinction without a difference," said Under Secretary for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon. "From my point of view, 2231 is telling Iran that it should not be undertaking any activity related to ballistic missiles, and that's how we act." In reality, the U.N.'s inaction indicated that the difference carried profound practical implications.
 
In the context of these developments, Kerry's plea for a "new arrangement" with Iran over ballistic missiles belies the administration's misleading rhetoric on ballistic missiles since the nuclear deal's finalization. It also reflects the White House's failure to learn the lessons of Iran's continuing defiance both of the U.N. and of U.S. law. By ignoring his own pledges to meaningfully punish Tehran for its provocations, President Obama has incentivized the regime to continue them.
 
For this reason, it should come as no surprise that the Islamist regime quickly rejected Kerry's overture. After all, Iran no longer faces a binding obligation to refrain from ballistic missile development. And thanks to the nuclear agreement itself, the regime has acquired not only billions of dollars in sanctions relief, but also the right to pursue an internationally recognized and large-scale nuclear program after the bulk of the deal's restrictions expire in 10 to 15 years.
 
Rather than provide Iran with additional concessions in exchange for a "new arrangement," the administration and Congress should seize this opportunity to reinvigorate the sanctions that still remain in place and pressure the regime to cease its ballistic missile activities, weapons purchases, and regional aggression. Kerry has finally admitted that UNSCR 2231 fails to definitively prohibit Iran's development of ballistic missiles. The United States should not further reward Iran for its dangerous behavior.

Tzvi Kahn is Senior Policy Analyst at the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI), a non-profit, non-partisan,  organization  based in Washington, that seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and strengthening America's global economic competitiveness.


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Time to take aim at Iranian missiles

Sanctions won't check Iran's ambitions anymore. It's time to think bigger.

Politico, 04/12/16 05:21

Iran is back at its old game — testing boundaries and provoking its neighbors and the West — this time through a spate of recent ballistic missiles launches. In response, Secretary of State John Kerry spoke last week of offering Iran some vague "new arrangement" to address its ballistic missile program, and many in Congress have resorted to a tried-and-true response: more sanctions.

But Iran's provocations are taking place in a new political and strategic context, one fundamentally altered by last summer's nuclear agreement and the region's spiraling conflicts. In this context, warmed-over U.S. policies, however well intentioned, are inadequate. The best chance to stop Tehran's ballistic missile program, box in its ambitions and begin to restore U.S credibility now comes from boosting America's ballistic missile defense capabilities, and those of our regional allies, and threatening to shoot down any ballistic missile Iran launches in the future. If credibly delivered, such a threat would compel Tehran to back off its tests.

Since the signing of the nuclear agreement in July, Iran has conducted at least three sets of tests of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, which can carry nuclear weapons and, in some cases, reach not only Israel and Turkey, but our East European allies. The first two launches violated U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929, which bans Iran from such activities. However, the third set of test fires occurred only several weeks ago, after the resolution implementing the nuclear deal had taken effect. This new resolution merely calls on Iran not to undertake such activities, rather than prohibiting them.

The United States and its partners dealt with previous Iranian infractions by levying ever more stringent sanctions on the rogue nation. Those sanctions were partly aimed to pressure Iran to enter negotiations, which eventually led to the nuclear deal. Under that agreement, the legal strictures on Iran's ballistic missile activity, among other non-nuclear issues, have been eased, and Tehran has taken advantage of that by expanding its ballistic missile activity — despite, or because of, the imposition of some new sanctions.

Our responses to these Iranian provocations have so far been insufficient. Heaping more unilateral sanctions on Iran now will have only limited impact. And Iran rejected Kerry's vague offer. In the post-nuclear deal era, a new set of responses to Iranian belligerence is needed.

The U.S. must respond in a way that both effectively punishes Iranian behavior and reassures our allies. That response should come in the form of investment and expansion of a capability too long ignored by the Obama administration: ballistic missile defense.

We already have the necessary capabilities to shoot down anything Iran can put in the air, or destroy on the ground what it seeks to put in the air. Our first line of missile defense is Aegis ship-based systems on U.S. Navy destroyers and cruisers in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman. These are backed up by land-based Patriot and Terminal High Altitude Aerial Defense batteries operated by all our Middle East allies. In December, an additional ground-based Aegis site came online in Romania. Each of these systems was designed to intercept missiles of equal or longer range, and more sophisticated countermeasures, than anything in Iran's existing arsenal.

Linked with U.S. radar stations in Israel, Qatar and Turkey to detect and track launches specifically by Iran, these BMD systems can fire and guide multiple surface-to-air interceptors to destroy an Iranian missile in flight above the atmosphere or in its terminal phase — either with a head-on collision or a shotgun-like area blast. Overall, this creates overlapping layers of defense against the medium-range ballistic missiles Iran has recently tested. This network could also intercept intermediate-range ballistic missiles that could reach Europe if Iran's program continues apace.

Even as Iran doubles down on missiles, the United States and our allies are in good position to maintain our defensive edge. The Navy is already working to increase its fleet of Aegis-capable ships by more than a third, and to equip them with longer-range and more accurate interceptors. Meanwhile, the United States and its allies are busy procuring additional THAAD batteries.

It should be U.S. policy to utilize its existing BMD capabilities, starting immediately, to intercept the short- and medium-range ballistic missiles Iran has been testing and make painfully clear to Iran's leaders that we are prepared to do so. Previous declarations and demonstrations of U.S. forces have compelled Iran to change course. For example, in early 2012, Iran backed down from its threat to close the Strait of Hormuz after the United States declared such a move a red line and sent a second U.S. Navy carrier group through the strait. Also, Iran altered its nuclear program, finding a way to limit its stockpile of enriched uranium, after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2012 drew a red line over a specific stockpile level.

Intercepting Iran's missiles would deny Iran the technical benefits of successful test launches, blunting its progress on longer range, more survivable and more accurate missiles — including an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the continental United States later this decade. It would also send an unmistakable signal to Iran and its allies, as well as to our own nervous allies, of the superiority of U.S. military capabilities and our willingness to use them.

In the face of an aggressive, determined and strategic Iran, the United States also must begin investing in a more robust regional BMD capability. We have invested more than $3 billion to co-develop Israel's multi-layered air defense system of Iron Dome, David's Sling and Arrow. It is time to invest in similar cooperation on BMD capabilities with other allies threatened by the growing Iranian menace.

The U.S. government should explore a coordinated BMD system that ties in the Gulf Cooperation Council, Jordan, Egypt and Israel. Such a network could integrate in real time dispersed THAAD, Arrow, Patriots, and sea- and land-based Aegis systems to provide a comprehensive defense against Iranian threats.

We have the capability to slow, and even set back, Iran's ballistic missile program. Unfortunately, we lack a policy to utilize this capability. Sen. Ted Cruz recently declared that as president he would threaten to shoot down Iranian ballistic missile test firings, but so far no other presidential candidate of either party or other leading policymakers have done so. Unless we leave no doubt about our readiness and willingness to shoot down these missiles, we not only encourage the further dissolution of U.S. influence and our allies' insecurity but ultimately allow Iran to continue developing missiles that could eventually reach the United States.

Gen. Charles Wald, Retired, is former deputy commander of U.S. European Command and senior adviser to JINSA's Gemunder Center for Defense and Strategy. Michael Makovsky, a former Pentagon official in the George W. Bush administration, is chief executive officer of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.

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Russian S-300 Deliveries to Iran Have Apparently Begun

Farzin Nadimi

Policy Alert, April 13, 2016

New evidence indicates that components of the old but potent missile system have made their way to Tehran, though the scope and timing of their contribution to Iran's air-defense capabilities remain uncertain.


Following a protracted process with numerous twists and turns, Russia finally appears to have begun delivering at least some elements of the S-300 long-range air-defense system to Iran. On April 11, exactly one year after President Vladimir Putin lifted his ban on such deliveries, a convoy of ships offloaded large equipment at the Caspian port of Anzali, under a heavy guard that included extensive deployment of Iranian air-defense reinforcements. The equipment was then transported by road to Tehran. Amateur photographs and videos suggest that the cargo included parts of the S-300PMU-1 (SA-20A Gargoyle) air-defense system. Even if upgraded, the system has lower capabilities than the PMU-2 version Tehran was originally believed to purchase, but it still represents a potentially formidable boost to the country's air-defense network.

In 2007, Iran and Russia signed an $800 million contract for around five S-300 battalions (or sixty launchers), with deliveries to begin in 2008. Yet the fulfilment phase was delayed and later cancelled after the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1929 in 2010 banning all weapons deliveries to Iran.

This week, however, photos have shown large flatbed trucks in Iran transporting what appear to be partially camouflaged components of the ST68U/UM Tin Shield and 64N6E Big Bird search-and-acquisition radars associated with the older PMU-1 version, in addition to other unidentified equipment. So far, none of the available imagery shows the fire-control radars or missile transporter erector launchers (TELs) associated with a complete S-300 firing unit. Even so, the radars that have been sent could be used in a standalone mode to enhance Iran's situational awareness if the launchers and missiles are delayed or not delivered for whatever reason. PMU-1 components are also compatible with systems delivered to Iran years ago by Belarus, such as the 30N6 radar.

The S-300PMU-1 was introduced to Russian service in the early 1990s and has since been supplanted by two newer generations. It is not yet known if the systems delivered to Iran have received any major upgrades beyond standard refurbishment following their gradual replacement in Russian service with the S-400. In 2011, Russia ended production of S-300PMUs in favor of the three-tier S-400 Triumph system, which has double the range and capabilities. S-400 production began in 2010, but so far Moscow has only exported the system to one country (China) due to its own still-substantial domestic demand. S-400s have also been deployed to Syria to protect Russian forces there.

In 2014, the arms company Almaz-Antey accelerated delivery of S-400s to the Russian military, which has so far received nine complete "regiments" (each regiment is three battalions). This has meant that additional secondhand S-300s could be made surplus for delivery to Iran. Meanwhile, Tehran reportedly refused Moscow's past proposal to deliver the more modern Antey 2500 (S-300V) system because it did not want to retrain its air-defense operators.

Despite being an older generation, the S-300PMU-1 can still detect up to 100 aerial targets simultaneously at a 300 km range, and engage six of them. It can be armed with 48N6 interceptor missiles that have a range of 150 km against aerial targets and 40 km against ballistic missile targets, reaching an altitude of 10 to 27 km. Each S-300PMU-1 battalion can combine up to four batteries with three launchers each, using a shared 64N6E acquisition radar supported by a 54K6E command post.

Previously, S-300PMU-1s have been exported to Cyprus, Greece, and Slovakia, among other countries. In spring 2015, the Israeli air force reportedly gained valuable experience operating against the system during joint maneuvers with Greece.

If the full delivery of S-300 components is completed as expected, the system will significantly improve Iran's air-defense capability once it eventually enters service. To effectively cover such a large country, however, Iran will still need to integrate the S-300s with its modified S-200 and Raad surface-to-air missiles, and perhaps with the Bavar-373, a system that is claimed to be under development in Iran loosely based on the S-300 design.

Farzin Nadimi is a Washington-based analyst specializing in the security and defense affairs of Iran and the Persian Gulf region.

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