By Javad Heirannia

‘Iran's recent missile tests were not in material violation of UNSCR 2231’

February 11, 2019

Mahsa Rouhi, associate of the Project on Managing the Atom and International Security Program at Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affair at Harvard University says Iran's recent missile tests were not in material violation of UNSCR 2231.

Research fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies adds that “UNSCR 1929, which was superseded by 2231, explicitly demanded that Iran halt launches of missiles "capable" of carrying atomic payloads.”
Following is the full text of the interview:

Q: Some argue that Iran missile test is in violation of international agreement such as UNSCR 2231. But as you know this resolution just “call upon” on a missile that can carry nuclear warhead. What is your idea?

A: While certainly provocative, Iran's recent missile tests were not in material violation of UNSCR 2231, which "calls" upon the Islamic Republic not to launch missiles "designed" to be capable of carrying nuclear weapons. In contrast, UNSCR 1929, which was superseded by 2231, explicitly demanded that Iran halt launches of missiles "capable" of carrying atomic payloads. While they may appear inconsequential, the differences in wording between the defunct Resolutions 1929 and existing 2231 are significant, particularly in diplomatic parlance. 

Mindful of this backdrop, and given that the IAEA has confirmed Iran’s continued compliance with its obligations under the JCPOA, the U.S. appears to be focusing on finding instances of non-compliance to pursue such potential violations with the Agency. Indeed, in the greater scheme of things, the Trump administration as part of its "maximum pressure" policy is more broadly highlighting Iran’s missile program and its regional policies as threats that need to be directly confronted – and perhaps more so, as threats that cannot be confronted as long as Europe does not join the U.S. in reimposing nuclear-related sanctions on Iran.

Q: There are some obvious differences between satellite launching and the long-range ballistic missile. Why some officials such as Israel’ Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu-when Iran launched Payam-e Amirkabir satellite- condemned Iran for the launching of the satellite?

A: There is a lot of controversy within the expert community regarding this issue. There are some areas of similarity in the technology and expertise between satellite launching and ICBMs. The differences are mainly the operational aspects. You can see a detailed technical discussion on this on our website by my colleague Michael Elleman. 

https://www.iiss.org/blogs/analysis/2019/01/iran-satellite-launch

Q: The ex-member of the U.S. nuclear-negotiating team Robert Malley recently told Euronews that EU is not fully united behind the SPV because some countries in the European Union are more sensitive to the U.S. argument or pressure. With regard to this matter, do you think that SPV will be efficient enough once launched?

A: I believe the launch of SPV is a great first step. The SPV is a mechanism and will not be sufficient to convince the businesses or governments to conduct business with Iran, specially those more sensitive to U.S. pressure. However, it does provide an incentive for those who do want to continue business with Iran. Moreover, SPV provides a window of opportunity. In order for Iran to draw benefits from it, there need to be continued and proactive negotiations with European governments and businesses to promote trade and investment. In other words, politically, SPV is a great achievement. But from an economic and business perspective, SPV is just a tool to help pave the way in along and rocky road ahead.

Leave a Comment

2 + 2 =