Iran on Saturday displayed a new cruise missile with a range of 1,300 kilometers. The regime’s official media reported the unveiling during celebrations marking the 40th anniversary of the Iranian revolution. Defense Minister Amir Hatami identified this surface-to-surface missile, dubbed “Hoveizeh,” as part of the Soumar family of cruise missiles, which he said Iran had added to its arsenal in 2015. He added that the “cruise missile needs a very short time for its preparedness and can fly at a low altitude.”
Confirming reports that Tehran was expanding its ballistic missile program, Amir Ali Hajizadeh, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) missile division, said Iran had overcome initial problems in producing jet engines for cruise missiles and could now manufacture a full range of the weapons. Hossein Salami, deputy head of the IRGC, rejected proposals by France and other nations to discuss the missile program, threatening to increase the scope and range of Iranian missiles.
How to deal with these ominous developments will be the subject of a meeting led by the US this month. There is a growing international consensus on the need to curb Iran’s expanding ballistic missile program, but more is needed to translate that into action. Alarm was raised last September, when Iran fired short-range ballistic missiles into Syria and tested long-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. It also continued its attempts to launch a satellite into orbit in January.
In December, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo disclosed that Iran had test-fired a medium-range ballistic missile that was capable of carrying multiple warheads and was able to reach most of the Middle East and parts of Europe. Pompeo stressed that Iran was, as such, in clear breach of UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution 2231. After the US disclosure, Iran admitted to the test and said it would continue testing ballistic missiles, but denied that it was a violation of the resolution.
Resolution 2231 calls on Iran to refrain from “any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.” The scrutiny regime imposed by this resolution, which was adopted in 2015, reinforces restrictions that had already been imposed by the earlier resolution 1929 of 2010.
In addition to developing its ballistic missile arsenal within its own borders, Iran has supplied its proxies in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen with ballistic missiles, which is a violation of other UNSC resolutions, such as 2216 of 2015 dealing with Yemen.
The UK and France, in particular, have condemned the growth of Iran’s missile program, calling it a provocation that contributes to destabilizing the area. In December, they convened a meeting of the UNSC on the subject, although without results as Russia is itself involved in developing Iran’s missile program and is keen to shield it from criticism.
As the UNSC failed to move, France called for direct talks with Iran, but Tehran dismissed the proposal, leading Paris to threaten to impose sanctions if no progress was made toward curbing its missile program.
Due to the UNSC deadlock, Iran is continuing to develop its arsenal, as we saw this week with the unveiling of Hoveizeh and the statements of defiance.
– “There is a growing international consensus on the need to curb Iran’s expanding ballistic missile program.” – Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg
From the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) perspective, Iran’s missile program is not just a threat in the future but a reality. Saudi Arabia has been targeted by hundreds of Iranian-supplied short and medium-range missiles and drones launched by the Houthi militia from Yemen over the past three years. The technology used in these is evolving and they are being employed both within Yemen and across the border into Saudi Arabia.
Russian, Chinese and North Korean experts have helped Iran develop its ballistic missile program and Tehran is being emboldened both by this support and by the timid resistance it is facing from its adversaries.
The upcoming conference on Middle East security, to be held in Poland on Feb. 13, can help reverse that. It is expected to zero in on the threats posed by Iran. The meeting is being organized by Poland and the US and some 70 countries have been invited, with the hope of building a wide international consensus to curb Iran’s malign activities and pressure it into acting like a normal nation. Top among those concerns is its ballistic missile program.
Similarly, the US is organizing another meeting later in the month in Washington for the Middle East Strategic Alliance to agree on concrete actions to curb Iran’s destabilizing activities, including its missile program.
The GCC strongly supports US moves to counter Iran’s provocations and is moving on several tracks to deal with the dangers emanating from ballistic missile proliferation in the Gulf. Diplomatically, it has called on the UNSC to strengthen the oversight and inspection regime included in resolutions 2231 and 1929. All states, but especially the permanent members of the UNSC, should refrain from helping Iran develop its missile program.
The GCC is also working with close allies, especially the US and UK, to deal with Iran’s threats. The US is increasing its military presence in the region, with the addition of the USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier and its accompanying armada demonstrating America’s determination to protect the Gulf. Similarly, the UK is bolstering its military footprint in the region, from Kuwait to Oman and other GCC countries.
Saudi Arabia has so far demonstrated its ability to withstand the attacks launched by the Houthis, but the Kingdom and its GCC partners are still developing their missile defenses to deal with more sophisticated weapons that may be launched in large numbers simultaneously. Work with the US is ongoing to build an integrated, GCC-wide ballistic missile defense network that would provide such capabilities.
At the same time, GCC states recognize the need to bolster their own capabilities to match the growing threats from Iranian missile development.
The objective of activity along all these tracks is to persuade Iran to resort to peaceful means instead of military escalation to advance its interests in the region. The arms race that Iran has started is putting pressure on the region’s resources and diverting funds from development. The Iranian people are especially harmed when their country’s limited resources are diverted to military development and adventures abroad, instead of raising the standards of living at home.
Source » arabnews