The Times of Israel notes that Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the IRGC aerospace division, described the medium and long-range missiles in the facility as only the “tip of the iceberg” of Iran’s military capabilities. He and other Iranian officials have vowed to continue growing Iran’s missile stockpiles and domestic weaponry.
Such figures as Defense Minister Hossein Dehqan and President Hassan Rouhani have also declared that the country would not abide by any imposed limits on its military, a reference to United Nations resolutions demanding that Iran restrain its development of ballistic missiles and specifically ballistic missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
Given this context, the recent missile test has been viewed as a gesture of defiance against the international community and the United States in particular. The televised tour of the underground military base seems aimed at contributing to this defiance and also extending earlier IRGC and hardline rhetoric about Iran’s readiness for open conflict with the West.
In service of that rhetoric, the regime has periodically claimed major advancements in its military capabilities, although none of these claims can be independently verified and some have been called into question on the basis of dubious photography and video of the alleged technological improvements.
Nonetheless, Fox News reports that Dehqan and Iranian state television once again touted supposed advancements this week, saying that the country had tested a domestically-produced torpedo that represents improved power, accuracy, and range when compared to previous models. Dehqan also claimed that the Valfajr, or “Dawn” torpedo system can be prepared for use much more quickly than other such systems, thus posing a greater danger to naval forces that might attempt to launch a surprise amphibious assault.
At the same time that Iran’s military boasting has been known to reference “enemies” in the West, it is understood that its weapons demonstrations are also generally aimed at intimidating Israel into thinking twice about possible military strikes, which the Jewish state has at times threatened against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. Indeed, Iranian officials specifically referred to the Emad missile test as a further deterrent to Israel.
Israel’s leadership has been especially vocal about its opposition to the July nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu having repeatedly said that the deal paves the way to an Iranian nuclear weapon. But Iran’s other regional adversaries have also expressed concerns about the implications of the deal and the general climate of rapprochement between Iran and Western powers that have traditionally been allied with Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
On Wednesday, the latest indication of this concern came in the form of the report, carried by the Jewish Press, that the GCC was seeking to obtain Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense shield in order to better protect against the apparent ascendance of Iran’s military capabilities and its presence in the broader Middle East.
The transaction between the GCC and Israel will reportedly be brokered by the US, indicating that the rapprochement strategy has not entirely divorced the US from its allies. But Saudi Arabia recently announced that it was developing a new defense doctrine, consisting in part of its own expanded military capabilities, in large part as a response to the withdrawal of US leadership in the region.
Still, it seems that that relative withdrawal has not entailed a general abandonment of concern for Iranian misbehavior. This is evidenced by the fact that, according to CNN, the US is preparing to refer the case of the Emad nuclear weapons test to the UN Security Council to consider whether it is a violation of Resolution 1929 banning Iran’s continued ballistic missile activities. CNN adds that another resolution, number 2231, which bans launches of missiles designed to carry nuclear weapons, does not actually take effect until after the nuclear agreement is implemented.
Resolution 2231 governs that implementation, but ballistic missiles are not mentioned in the text of the nuclear agreement itself. Critics of the Western negotiators allege that that is because Iran would not agree to such provisions, and indeed the statements of Iranian officials uphold this. So while the Emad test cannot have violated a resolution that is not in effect, it is all but certain that Iran will violate that resolution in the long term.
Still, because ballistic missiles are not part of the actual nuclear agreement, the Obama administration has had license to take the somewhat ironic step of saying that the Emad test has likely violated UN resolutions, but also that Iran could be expected to abide by the terms of the nuclear agreement. Townhall quoted White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest as saying that the two issues are “altogether separate” from each other and that Iranian compliance with the actual nuclear deal will be assiduously verified.
On the surface, it appears as if Iranian authorities are deliberately moving toward compliance with the deal. That is to say that it was reported earlier this week that the Iranian parliament had passed a bill approving the implementation of the terms of the agreement. The BBC then reported on Wednesday that Iran’s Guardian Council approved the bill after deciding that it did not conflict with Islamic law, as it must do with all major legislation in the Islamic Republic.
But the Jewish Press points out that the bill that narrowly passed parliament has been misrepresented by Western media as an endorsement of the agreement reached between the Iranian executive and six world powers. In fact, the parliament considered and approved its own modified version of that agreement, and one that differs from the original by referring to the end of the Israeli nuclear weapons program, as well as formally barring foreign inspection of Iranian nuclear sites and calling for the government to continue building up Iran’s military capabilities.
Despite these alternations, every indication from both sides of the agreement is that it is on track to be formally adopted on October 18, according to Live Trading News. If hardliners on neither side cause the deal to be derailed at the last moment, Iran is expected to take steps to reduce its nuclear infrastructure and output starting November 30, about two weeks in advance of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency presenting the findings of its probe into the past military dimensions of the Iranian nuclear program.
Depending on the content of that presentation, this might serve as the flashpoint for renewed debate about the effectiveness of the deal from the Western perspective, as many US Republican legislators and some Democrats have taken issue with the details of that probe as worked out between the IAEA and Iran on the sidelines of the nuclear deal. In what has been regarded as a concession to Iran’s suspicious obsession with keeping its military sites secret, the IAEA allowed Iran last month to collect its own samples of the Parchin military base, which has long been regarded as a likely centerpiece to Iranian work on nuclear weapons technology.