U.S. President Donald Trump warned last Friday in an announcement that if the Congress and Europeans don’t find a way to agree on a way to “fix the [Iran] deal’s disastrous flaws,’ it’s gone.
Trump started a 120 day clock on U.S. withdrawal from the deal unless both Congress and the EU-3 (Britain, France, and Germany) add four new binding conditions to the agreement. (For Congress ‘binding’ would be a new statute, for the European nations, this would be a pact with the United States.)
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was signed between the U.S., Iran and five other world leaders in 2015.
Trump’s four binding conditions are:
- (1) a verification fix,
- (2) a ballistic missile fix,
- (3) a sunset clause fix,
- (4) a guarantee Iran stays a year away from breakout.
If Iran violates any of these new conditions, it would be considered the same as Iran violating any existing condition and would be treated as an Iranian breach of the deal, so nuclear sanctions would be reimposed.
Each of the four new conditions will now become its own sub-debate, as lawmakers and diplomats maneuver to strengthen or weaken the language.
This article is focused specifically on the second of the four conditions, the ballistic missile fix.
The Trump administration considers the Iran deal to be fatally flawed because it allows Iran to develop nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, but shreds sanctions against Iranian nuclear-related work.
A fix would incorporate limits on ballistic missile development into the deal. That would make it a violation for Iran to test a prohibited missile, just as it is a violation for Iran to test a prohibited centrifuge.
The debate is over the types of missiles to include in the prohibition: all nuclear-capable ballistic missiles or only missiles exceeding a certain range?
The current UN language banning Iranian missile development is not limited by range, according to an article in the Washington Examiner.
Paragraph 3 of Annex B of resolution 2231 (2015) calls upon Iran not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology. The limited option doesn’t touch missiles that Iran would use against U.S. bases and allies in the Middle East, however, and Iran hawks have already lined up in opposition.
Last week the White House held a background call for Iran experts. A caller explicitly asked what kind of ballistic missile restrictions they’re looking for. A senior administration official clarified they want to restrict the full range of missiles:
Q: Can you provide a little more detail about what you’re looking for with regard to Iran’s missile program? Are you looking for range caps, moratoriums on testing? And does this include both ballistic missiles, as well as cruise missiles? Thank you.
A: (Senior admin official) To be honest with you, we’re going to try to get as much as we can. So for us – obviously, the ICBMs, long-range missiles, and their inherent association with the nuclear program, that’s foremost in our minds, but we’re not excluding the threat that medium-range ballistic missiles pose, and that those are nuclear-capable, as well, and pose a severe threat to our allies in Iran’s region and also some on the periphery of Europe. So we want action against those as well, and against the cruise missiles that we’re seeing the Iranian regime proliferate right now and use to pose a threat to our partners in the Gulf, Saudi Arabia and UAE in particular, from Yemen. So to be honest with you … we want it all.”
There are competing versions on this issue moving through Congress, with the measure in the Senates limited to long-range missiles, according to a report posted by Politico a week ago.
The House version is reportedly more comprehensive, the Washington Free Beacon reported.
After the president’s signature on a waiver Friday, Iran deal critics in both the Senate and the House published statements calling for language that applies to all missiles.
A fix must include “a complete cessation of Iran’s nuclear and missile programs,” GOP Senator Tom Cruz insisted.
Republican Rep. Peter Roskam said the fix must ban Iran “from developing nuclear-capable ballistic missiles that can harm our troops or allies in the Middle East.”
Omri Ceren of The Israel Project contributed content to this report.