Iran Accepts Nuclear Agreement but Tests Nuclear-Capable Ballistic Missile

In the first place, the Iranian parliament approved a bill laying out the general framework for Iran’s implementation of the July 14 nuclear agreement with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany. In the second place, the Iranian military tested a new ballistic missile, which officials praised for its supposedly high degree of precision and advanced range. In theory, the Emad ballistic missile could be used to strike specific targets in Israel or Iran’s other regional enemies.

The passage of the outline bill is another step forward for an agreement that has faced a great deal of opposition on both the American and the Iranian side, but it does not yet indicate that that opposition has been overcome. IranWire paints a picture of paper-thin support for the Iranian bill, reflecting a situation in which many MPs approve of the general idea behind the nuclear deal but oppose many of its particulars.

Furthermore, the Associated Press points out that even the framework bill specifies that Iran will withdraw from the agreement if the US re-imposes prior sanctions or passes legislation to pass new sanctions. This is a move that opponents of the deal in the US Congress have publicly considered as a way to safeguard against the perceived ill effects on Iran policy. By effectively guaranteeing that such a move would kill the deal, the recent Iranian legislation may ramp up opposition among some US congressmen.

Those Iranian MPs who expressed soft support for the bill may face a similar situation in the near future. That is, IranWire suggests that some of them cast their vote in the hope that disagreeable particulars can be “fixed” at a later date. But this is unlikely and grows more unlikely as the current deal moves closer and closer to implementation.

What remains quite possible, however, is that the deal will be rejected in full by the Iranian parliament or sufficiently undermined by the US Congress as to cause it to fail. It is also possible that the Republican Party and other opponents of the current atmosphere of rapprochement with Iran will successfully put pressure on President Obama or a subsequent presidential administration to take action against Iran’s arguable violations of the deal, thus leading it to be cancelled on one or both sides.

The probability of this outcome is enhanced by Iran’s missile test, which could be regarded as violating the UN Security Council resolution whereby the nuclear deal was approved. That resolution declares that Iran is expected to forgo any development or testing of ballistic missiles designed to carry a nuclear warhead. However, this provision reportedly was deliberately left out of the nuclear agreement itself because of Iran’s unwillingness to abide by it. Thus, Iran can violate that provision without technically invalidating the nuclear deal. And several Iranian officials including President Rouhani have indicated that they intend to do just this.

Coinciding with the test launch of the Emad ballistic missile, Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehqan once again reiterated that Iran “does not ask for permission” regarding any of its military development or testing, and will not abide by any imposed restrictions on these things.

While this and other such comments demonstrate clear intention for non-cooperation, the New York Times indicates that there has been some quibbling over whether the Emad test technically constitutes a violation of the UN resolution. Tehran has preemptively defended this and any other test launch by saying that none of their missiles are intended to carry a nuclear warhead. But naturally, Tehran’s opponents insist that any missile that is capable of carrying such a warhead would fall under the restrictions imposed by the UN resolution.

Thus far, the US State Department has declined to publicly take a position on whether a violation has occurred, according to the Wall Street Journal. It has only said that it would investigate the matter and would take action if there was a violation. The department did not, however, specify what such action would consist of.