Though only recently confirmed, the Ghadr missile launch has already led to vigorous discussion in Western policy circles. But many critics of the Obama administration have specifically been motivated in this discussion by the lack of serious international action to hold Iran to account for its apparent violations.
American Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power claimed on Tuesday that a formal inquiry had been ordered and that the issue would be discussed by the Security Council in the coming week. But American lawmakers in both the Senate and the House of Representatives have already expressed concern that the administration is willing to look the other way on the latest incident, and that it already did so with regard to the Emad test.
The Washington Times reported on Wednesday that Senators Mark Kirk and Kelly Ayotte had jointly written a letter to President Obama criticizing his response. The document was also circulated to their congressional colleagues, and it recalled attention to a similar letter on the occasion of the preceding test.
The earlier letter had requested that the administration outline “specific steps” that it would take in response to what US and UN officials had acknowledged as a “clear violation” of current resolutions. But this week’s letter explained, “Almost two months later, we have not received a substantive response, and it is not clear whether your administration has taken any appropriate steps to hold Tehran accountable for its violation of its international commitments.”
Depending on one’s interpretation of the surrounding context, these criticisms could be either supported or undermined by evidence that the US government and military may have been preparing for tests of this kind long before they took place. This claim was presented by Business Insider on Wednesday. It noted that Vice Admiral James Syring, the head of the US Missile Defense Agency, among other US officials, had made statements as early as the summer of 2014 indicating that Iran was engaged in developing long-range ballistic missiles and would likely test them in the near future.
Business Insider went on to connect these comments to reports that the Department of Defense restarted a particular missile defense program in August, about a month after the conclusion of the nuclear negotiations that will lead to the lifting of restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missiles eight years after implementation.
Business Insider described this 9.8 million dollar multiple-kill vehicle program as being “especially well-suited to countering an emerging Iranian capability.” The program is expected to bear fruit in about four years, potentially providing a significant buffer before the legal expansion of Iranian ballistic missile arsenals.
These reports arguably point to the existence of alternative means of confronting the Iranian belligerence that is evidence by its resolution-defying tests. But this is unlikely to set minds at ease among lawmakers critical of the Obama administration, as it may also point to willingness to allow Iran to expand its military capabilities over the short term, including its capabilities for the theoretical launch of nuclear missiles.
It is extremely likely that the US Congress, especially its Republican majority, will remain at odds with the Obama administration on issues such as this. Furthermore, this can be expected to result in unilateral congressional efforts to take a more confrontational stance on issues of Iran policy, or to encourage individual states and allied governments to do so.
The Tower pointed out on Wednesday that lawmakers in both chambers of Congress had introduced resolutions expressing support for state and local governments’ efforts to retain or even expand sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program, human rights violations, and regional intrusions, by preventing pension funds and other government accounts from including investments in companies that do business with the Islamic theocracy.
Currently, about half of the states in the US have passed legislation ordering this sort of divestment.