Finally! The Obama Administration found a way out of their negotiation screw-up, allowing Iran to legally test long-range ballistic missiles. According to the Iranian military, the U.S. solved the problem by telling the rogue nation, Ixnay on the bragging about your launches.
Despite the fact that the only purpose for long-range ballistic missiles is to deliver a nuclear payload (ballistic missiles are lousy at delivering pizza, the cheese slides to one side of the pie) according to according to President Obama’s new best buddies, our government’s only solution was to tell Iran to stop announcing their tests. Truth be told the Administration has no recourse because they were snookered in the P5+1 negotiations.
According to a senior Iranian military commander, U.S. officials encouraged the Islamic Republic to stay mum on illicit missile tests so as not to raise concerns in the region. (H/T ConservativeFiringLine)
Per a Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) translation of a news story posted at the Iranian news site Tasnimnews.com, Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Aerospace and Missile Force, told a conference of religious students in the Iranian city of Qom:
“At this time, the Americans are telling [us]: ‘Don’t talk about missile affairs, and if you conduct a test or maneuver, don’t mention it.’ If we agree to this, they will advance another step, and say: ‘Don’t conduct [a missile test] at this time, and also don’t do it in the Persian Gulf region.’ After that, they will tell us: ‘Why do you need your missiles to have a range of 2,000 km [anyway?]?’
“After that, they will tell [us]: ‘Next, we will check whether your missiles can really carry nuclear weapons. Bring us the details [of the missiles].’ After that, they will say: ‘We need to set up cameras.’ And, finally, they will say: ‘Either saw [the missiles up into pieces] or, like [Libyan dictator Mu’ammar] Gadhafi, load them onto a ship and hand [them] over to us.’
“They are clearly deluding themselves. Nothing like this will ever happen.”
According to the Washington Free Beacon, the State Department refused to comment on the statements, saying it doesn’t “comment on public remarks by Iranian officials, and especially IRGC officials.” And, a department official added, “we’re not going to start now.”
The only reason Iran is getting away with ballistic missile testing was that American negotiators made a wording concession during the P5+1 talks. Prior to the negotiation, Iran was banned from testing under UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1929 which said,” Iran shall not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles.” During the Vienna talks Iran demanded the ban be lifted. The Obama administration collapsed in two ways:
- They agreed to sunset the entire ban in 8 years.
- They agreed to change the language that would apply over the next 8 years from “Iran shall not” to the “Iran is called upon not to” develop ballistic missiles, this is the language in the final agreement.
Sadly, that change in language is proof John Kerry and Barack Obama were outmaneuvered by Iran in the P5+1 deal. The US believed that each version means that missile launches are a violations of the deal. Iran’s allies on the Security Council however, Russia, China, and Venezuela say that “being called upon not to” is a request not a ban, therefore the launches are not illegal. And since Russia and China both have vetoes, nothing will happen.
Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin, “made clear that in the view of veto-wielding Russia, Iran’s ballistic missile tests did not violate council resolution 2231, adopted in July, that endorsed an historic nuclear deal between Tehran and six world powers. “A call is different from a ban so legally you cannot violate a call, you can comply with a call or you can ignore the call, but you cannot violate a call,” Churkin said. “The legal distinction is there.”
The issue of the changed language was raised at a July 2015 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing where Sec. Kerry was trying to sell the agreement. Kerry was questioned by Sen. Menendez about the change in wording. The ensuing conversation (below) suggests Kerry was lying, totally clueless, or both.
Menendez kept reading out loud from the old and new resolutions, switching from “shall not” to “called upon not to,” while Kerry kept insisting that the different words were exactly the same.
Menendez : Mr. Secretary, I’m seriously concerned about the lifting of the arms embargo that creeped its way into this deal. As I read the Security Council resolution on page 119, the ban on Iranian ballistic missiles has, in fact, been lifted. The new Security Council resolution is quite clear. Iran is not prohibited from carrying out ballistic missile work. The resolution merely says, quote, “Iran is called upon not to undertake such activity.” Now previously, in Security Council Resolution 1929, the council used mandatory language where it said, quote, “It decides that Iran shall not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.” Why would we accept inferior language that changes the mandatory shall to a permissive call upon. We often call upon a lot of countries to do or stop certain actions in the U.N., but it doesn’t have the force of shall not which has consequences if you do. Can you answer simply, is Iran banned from ballistic missile work for the next eight years?
Kerry: That is not accurate. The exact same language in the embargo is in the agreement with respect to launches. And that is under article 25 of the U.N. And that is exactly where it is today in the language. But in addition to that, Iran did not want it, and we insisted on it. They are restrained from any sharing of missile technology, purchase of missile technology, exchange of missile technology, work on missiles. They cannot do that under article 41, which is chapter 7 and mandatory. And it does have the language still.
Menendez: It seems — I’m reading to you from the Security Council resolution that was adopted, codifying the…
Kerry: Yes, this agreement. The security council resolution.
Menendez: And that security council resolution says Iran — Mr. Secretary, I’m reading you explicit language. I’m not making this up. Iran is called upon…
As noted above, the Russians are taking the Iranian position that the language in UNSCR 2231 makes prohibitions on missile launches non-binding. The Iranians demanded at Vienna that any agreement remove the traditional language prohibiting launches – “Iran is called upon not to” – and that any replacement language be weaker. Americans negotiators conceded to the demand, and the the new UNSC resolution was written so that Iran was only “called upon” not to conduct ballistic missile work.
This makes one wonder what other problems with the deal did Kerry and Obama lie about or get fooled about. Based on the lack of transparency we’ve seen so far, chances are we won’t find out unless Iran starts bragging again.