How powerful is Iran's ballistic program?

The nuclear talks in Vienna have been extended to July 10, in part because of Iran's ballistic weapons program.

Scott Peterson/Getty Images/File
Full-size replicas of each of Iran's space rockets and ballistic missiles are displayed on the grounds of the Museum of Holy Defense and Spreading the Culture of Resistance on February 6, 2014, in Tehran, Iran.

The July 10 deadline for nuclear talks between Iran and the West is just around the corner, and negotiators still have some disagreements.

It is not clear what all the remaining issues are. Each country talks about its own sets of requests. But one central dispute is clear: Iranians want the United Nations to lift sanctions on their ballistic missile program, which the other side is not willing to accept.

A Russian source close to the negotiations told Mehr News Agency that negotiations turned bitter when US negotiators called Iran’s ballistic power “a threat to the stability in the Middle East,” and, “in a threatening tone,” asked Iran to accept Washington’s requests on this regard. 

In response, says the source, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif “shouted back,” blaming the US for the problems in the region and saying that they are not in a position to determine Iran’s ballistic future.

The concern over Iran’s military power has resulted in three sets of sanctions. In 2006, the UN Security Council imposed an embargo on Iran, prohibiting the import or export of nuclear technology. This was followed by two sets of arms embargoes on Iran in 2007 and 2010.

Despite all the hurdles, however, Iran has been able to expand its ballistic capability over the past few years.

The West is mainly concerned about Iran’s three ballistic missiles that could strike targets in Israel or parts of Europe.

The medium-range Shahab-3, repeatedly tested in recent years, could strike targets in a range of 806 to 930 miles – including US forces stationed in the Middle East or Israel.

The revised version Ghadr-1, with a range of 995 miles, was unveiled in 2007. The Sajjil-2, with a range of 1,490 miles, was tested in 2009.

In 2009, Iran said it had tested an air-to-air missile and, in 2010, announced that it had started producing short-range cruise missiles.

All these missiles were manufactured during the sanctions, but the arms embargo has remained an obstacle, slowing down the country’s military progress. Now Iran wants the arms embargo, including sanctions on its ballistic missile program, to be lifted entirely.

“This issue does not belong to the nuclear file so the natural question is: What has been the reason for the inclusion of arms embargo in the resolution in the first place?” a senior Iranian diplomat told The Wall Street Journal on Monday. “So this is a question that should be posed to our European and American partners.… What was the reason that you put this issue in the agenda of the Security Council?”

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