Iran’s ballistic missile launch a test for Trump

An Emad long-range ballistic surface-to-surface missile is displayed by the Revolutionary Guard during a military parade outside Tehran In this Sept. 21, 2016 photo. (AP)
Updated 12 February 2017
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Iran’s ballistic missile launch a test for Trump

WASHINGTON: Iran’s ballistic missile launch on Sunday was Tehran’s “first litmus test” for the Donald Trump administration as much as it was a regional show of force, according to experts.
With the launch coming just nine days into the Trump presidency, Iran-watchers expect the new administration to respond through the different levers at its disposal.
A more aggressive retaliation could, however, backfire, and lead to an unintended escalation in the Gulf region, the experts said.
According to US Defense officials, Iran test-fired a medium-range ballistic missile, the first of its kind since Trump took office on Jan. 20. Fox News reported that the launch “occurred Sunday at a well-known test site outside Semnan,” while NBC quoted US officials as saying the launch “was a failure, after the missile flew more than 500 miles… before crashing.”
Iran’s first test to Trump
Benjamin Weinthal, a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), told Arab News that Iran’s missile launch is “the first litmus test for the Trump administration to counter Iran’s growing jingoism and its violations of UN regulations.”
Iran’s last test in July 2016, during the Barack Obama administration, was not met by a stern response in part because the then president did not see a violation of the nuclear deal.
Tyler Cullis, a legal fellow with the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), said that Iran’s missile tests are not technically in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231 because “the resolution only contains a hortatory call for Iran to refrain from certain missile activities.”
The resolution calls upon Iran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons,” but it stops short on enforcing restrictions or penalty provisions.
Both Weinthal and Cullis agree however that the test may be a “grave mistake” by Iran, and comes at an intricate time in Washington’s new strategy toward Tehran.
“The missile test should be viewed in the context of Iranian belligerence in the region. Iran’s terrorist proxy group in Yemen — the Houthis — attacked yesterday a Saudi navy ship,” said Weinthal.
Cullis said the timing of the launch is “dangerous particularly as the Trump administration appears increasingly unmoored from the norms of US policymaking and thus unpredictable in their response to these tests.”
Trump’s response
White House spokesman Sean Spicer on Monday confirmed the missile test without delving into details on the administration’s possible response. “We’re looking into that. We’re aware that Iran fired that missile. We’re looking into the exact nature of it, and I’ll try to have more for you later,” he said.
An early response by the Trump administration was to call for an emergency meeting at the UN Security Council, slated for late Tuesday afternoon. A Security Council “condemnation of Iran’s behavior and the restoration of UN-based sanctions would be an appropriate measure,” said Weinthal.
The Trump administration could go further by pursuing economic pressure on Iran. Weinthal said that Trump’s options include “forcing Boeing airlines to cancel its planes deal with Iran and urging European companies and governments who have rushed into the Iranian market that they are putting their business relations with the US at risk.”
Cullis sees an array of options that could determine Trump’s response. The US could take more aggressive actions in the Gulf “which could provoke a direct military confrontation between the US and Iran,” or by imposing new sanctions relating to Iran’s missile program.
During the campaign, Trump threatened Iranian vessels would be “shot out of the water” if they inappropriately approach US ships, and his Defense Secretary James Mattis has been a proponent of a stronger response to Iran’s aggressive behavior in the Gulf waters.
But if Trump fulfills his campaign promise and responds with a military action against Iran, “things could quickly spiral out of control,” Cullis warned.
“For a president who believes in extricating the US from the Middle East and who has bemoaned the costs of recent American interventions there, Trump might end up inviting a much larger, a much more costly, and a much more devastating conflict,” said the expert.
Whether the Trump administration takes the diplomatic, economic or military route in its response, Weinthal said its “posture toward Iran’s regime is expected to be a sea change from the Obama days” — and Sunday’s failed missile launch is an early test for it.

 


Iran’s top diplomat warns US is ‘playing with fire’

Updated 16 July 2019
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Iran’s top diplomat warns US is ‘playing with fire’

  • Iran announced last week that it had enriched uranium past the 3.67 percent limit set by the nuclear deal
  • The US quit an international deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program last year, hitting Tehran with crippling sanctions

UNITED NATIONS: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned Monday that the United States is “playing with fire,” echoing remarks by President Donald Trump as the two sides are locked in a standoff over Tehran’s nuclear program.
The United States quit an international deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program last year, hitting Tehran with crippling sanctions.
Tensions have since soared, with the US calling off air strikes against Iran at the last minute after Tehran downed an American drone, and Washington blaming the Islamic republic for a series of attacks on tanker ships.
“I think the United States is playing with fire,” Zarif told NBC News.
Iran announced last week that it had enriched uranium past the 3.67 percent limit set by the nuclear deal, and has also surpassed the 300-kilogram cap on enriched uranium reserves.
But “it can be reversed within hours,” Zarif told the channel, adding: “We are not about to develop nuclear weapons. Had we wanted to develop nuclear weapons, we would have been able to do it (a) long time ago.”
Zarif’s comments came as the United States imposed unusually harsh restrictions on his movements during a visit to the United Nations.
Weeks after the United States threatened sanctions against Zarif, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Washington issued him a visa but forbade him from moving beyond six blocks of Iran’s UN mission in Midtown Manhattan.
“US diplomats don’t roam around Tehran, so we don’t see any reason for Iranian diplomats to roam freely around New York City, either,” Pompeo told The Washington Post.
No US diplomats are based in Iran as the two countries broke off relations in the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled the Western-backed shah.
“Foreign Minister Zarif, he uses the freedoms of the United States to come here and spread malign propaganda,” the top US diplomat said.
UN spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters that the UN Secretariat was in contact with the US and Iranian missions about Zarif’s travel restrictions and “has conveyed its concerns to the host country.”
The United States, as host of the United Nations, has an agreement to issue visas promptly to foreign diplomats on UN business and only rarely declines.
Washington generally bars diplomats of hostile nations from traveling outside a 40-kilometer (25-mile) radius of New York’s Columbus Circle.
Zarif is scheduled to speak Wednesday at the UN Economic and Social Council, which is holding a high-level meeting on sustainable development.
Despite the restrictions, the decision to admit Zarif is the latest sign that Trump’s administration appears to be retreating from its vow to place sanctions on him as part of its “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on June 24 that sanctions against Zarif would come later that week.
Critics questioned the legal rationale for targeting Zarif and noted that sanctions would all but end the possibility of dialogue — which Trump has said is his goal.
Zarif said in an interview with The New York Times he would not be affected by sanctions as he owns no assets outside of Iran.