Iran continues to develop missile technology despite UN prohibitions
The director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, informed Congress this week that Iran has continued to develop its long-range missile technology despite U.N. resolutions prohibiting the work.
The Iranians are using the cover of their space program to perfect ICBMs that could be capable of hitting the U.S. mainland.
Iran's ballistic missile work, particularly its focus on ICBMs, runs counter to United Nations resolutions barring such activity, though it remains unclear if the Trump administration plans to pursue new sanctions on Iran.
Iran continues to perform key research and development on nuclear missile capabilities despite the landmark nuclear agreement with Western powers, according to the last U.S. intelligence assessments.
"Iran is pursuing capabilities to meet its nuclear energy and technology goals and to give it the capability to build missile-deliverable nuclear weapons, if it chooses to do so" Coats wrote in his written testimony to the Senate intelligence committee.
U.S. officials are unsure if Iran will build nuclear weapons, but it is likely this intention would dictate Tehran's future adherence to the nuclear deal, which the administration of former President Barack Obama framed in such a way as to leave out the issue of ballistic missiles.
The United States assesses that Iran remains about a year away from a functional nuclear missile if it decides to build one in violation of the nuclear deal.
Iranian military leaders claim their missile work is unrelated to the nuclear agreement and permissible under it. The country's refusal to abandon this work has caused concern on Capitol Hill, as well as among U.S. national security insiders who view the work as related to Iran's aspirations for regional dominance.
The U.S. intelligence community maintains that Iran – which has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East – likely would use this technology to launch a nuclear weapon.
"We judge that Tehran would choose ballistic missiles as its preferred method of delivering nuclear weapons, if it builds them," according to Coats. "Iran's ballistic missiles are inherently capable of delivering WMD, and Tehran already has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East."
"Tehran's desire to deter the United States might drive it to field an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)," Coats wrote, referring to Iran's covert missile work. "Progress on Iran's space program could shorten a pathway to an ICBM because space launch vehicles use similar technologies."
Presently, Iranian ICBMs are incapable of carrying a nuclear warhead due to limits in their payload capacity. The "satellites" they are launching into space are tiny and can't be boosted into a high enough Earth orbit to stay aloft for very long.
But the Iranians have been working steadily to improve the range and power of their missiles so that it's only a matter of time before they perfect a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to hit the U.S.
It is unfathomable why the Obama administration would seek to put limits – however inadequate – on the Iranian nuclear program while allowing the Iranians to go full bore in developing their ICBM technology. But little details like that don't matter when you're "making history," as President Obama wanted to do.