Iranian Diplomacy – Peter Jenkins, former UK Ambassador to the IAEA and UN, says that Israel has a significant missile program while Saudi Arabia has acquired a significant quantity of missiles from foreign suppliers and is reported to have embarked on an indigenous program.
A former associate fellow of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy also adds that “Both possess missiles of ranges in excess of 2000 km, unlike Iran.”
He adds that “These facts should be seen as of crucial relevance to any discussion of Iran’s missile program.”
Following is the full text of the interview:
Q: The British, German and French ambassadors, in a letter circulated on Wednesday, called on U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to inform the Security Council in his next report that Iran’s missile program was “inconsistent” with a U.N. resolution that had endorsed the nuclear deal reached between Iran and six world powers)UN Security Council Resolution 2231(. The claim is that some of Iran’s missiles do not comply with the resolution, while the resolution “calls on” Iran not to work on missiles “designed to carry nuclear warheads”. What is your assessment of this letter? And is it possible to vote against Iran at the Security Council meeting?
A: The European claim that aspects of Iran’s missile program are inconsistent with UNSC Res 2231 is not new. We have heard it on more than one past occasion. It rests on paragraph 3 of Annex B of that resolution. In this paragraph, Iran is called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons. I say “aspects of” because I assume – I do not know – that the Europeans recognize that only some of the missiles in Iran’s inventory or under development would be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
Is such a claim watertight? No, it’s a controversial claim because of the word “designed”. That word enables Iranian representatives to assert that none of the missiles in Iran’s inventory or under development has been designed to be a nuclear delivery vehicle, and it places a burden of proof on the Europeans that they are likely to be unable to sustain.
Why have the Europeans chosen to resurface the claim at this point, by writing to the UN Secretary-General? I assume there is a connection between this move and Iran’s policy of progressive non-performance of the 2015 nuclear agreement known as the JCPOA. I assume that the Europeans are seeking to put diplomatic pressure on Iran as a counter to the diplomatic pressure that Iran has been putting on Europe by threatening the survival of the JCPOA.
If that is their tactic, will it be effective? Alas, it seems more likely that Iran will dismiss the European claim as unfounded and will continue to move progressively towards killing off the JCPOA. I say “alas” because, as I have told you in the past, I believe the policy of progressive non-performance to be both unwise and unfair: it amounts to punishing Europe to no constructive effect for injustices which the United States has committed and which Iran has prevented Europe from mitigating.
Q: These two actions of Europe while Europe failed to fulfill its obligations to Iran and the reduction of its obligations by Iran was also a reaction to the passivity of European countries. What is your assessment?
A: I do not think there are objective grounds for ascribing passivity to European policy over the 22 months that have passed since President Trump first declared war on the JCPOA. The Europeans have tried repeatedly to persuade Trump that the JCPOA is a precious component of the global nuclear non-proliferation regime. They have consistently opposed Trump’s policy of subjecting Iran to “maximum pressure”, which they see to be both unjust and incapable of contributing to global peace and security. They have set up the trading facilitation mechanism known as INSTEX. President Macron of France has sought to create a basis for the resumption of European purchases of Iranian oil, but has been denied cooperation by President Rouhani.
Q: Resolution 2231 uses the term “calls on” which does not have a legal requirement. Accordingly, while on the basis of arguments put forward by Europe, Iran has models of missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, but there are no legal entities for the legal review of countries’ missile programs. This means that there is no international organization for recognizing the country’s missile capabilities and its aims include defensive, offensive or capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. What is your assessment?
A: You are right that UNSC Res 2231 does not impose on Iran a legally-binding obligation to refrain from developing a certain type of missile. You are also right that there is no international agreement that Iran is violating by developing and holding a range of missile types. This explains why Europe is reduced to claiming that Iran’s missile program is “inconsistent” with 2231 and to making debatable assertions about the intention behind the characteristics of some of Iran’s missiles.
Q: Iran does not have a Continental missile and its missile range is eventually 2,000 kilometers. However, Israel has both a nuclear bomb and missiles that have far more missiles than Iranian missiles, and Saudi Arabia has a new, more advanced, missile program. Regarding this why Iran has no right to have a missile balance? If Iran is asked to limit its missile program, so should countries around Iran. What is your assessment?
A: Again, you are right: Israel has a significant missile program while Saudi Arabia has acquired a significant quantity of missiles from foreign suppliers and is reported to have embarked on an indigenous program. Both possess missiles of ranges in excess of 2000 km, unlike Iran (although Iran has developed a “space launch vehicle” that could be modified to deliver payloads over a longer distance than 2000 km). These facts should be seen as of crucial relevance to any discussion of Iran’s missile program. To my mind they lead to at least two conclusions: it is reasonable for Iran to seek to deter the use of missiles against Iran by acquiring a capability to retaliate, and only a regional approach to controlling missile proliferation has any chance of obtaining Iranian assent.
You mention that Israel possesses nuclear weapons. This too is a fact. It would not justify the Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons since “two wrongs do not make a right”. But it does justify Iran’s possession of an effective anti-Israeli deterrent in the form of missiles.