Our Missiles Are Not Up for Discussion, Iran Tells US on Eve of Nuclear Talks
(CNSNews.com) – On the eve of a new round of Iran nuclear talks Tuesday, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei became the latest regime figure to challenge the Obama administration’s assertion that Iran’s missile program will be dealt with under a comprehensive nuclear deal due to be negotiated in the coming days and months.
Khamenei said the fact U.S. officials were now “bringing up human rights issues and Iran’s missile and defense capabilities” just further evidence of American animosity, suggesting that even if the nuclear dispute was resolved Iran’s enemies would raise “new issues.”
The Iranian nation “will never succumb to the bullying and blackmailing of the hegemonic order,” he said during a meeting in Tehran with visitors from north-western Iran.
In the remarks, which were posted on his official website, Khamenei also expressed pessimism about the talks succeeding, and lashed out at the “ugly” U.S., accusing it of violating human rights, supporting dictators and the “Zionist usurpers of Palestine,” and wanting to “rule the world.”
Iran and the P5+1 group – the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China plus Germany – are to resume talks in Vienna Tuesday, aimed at crafting a comprehensive nuclear accord. This follows last November’s interim “Joint Plan of Action” (JPOA), a six-month agreement granting Tehran limited sanctions relief in exchange for limited curbs on its nuclear program.
Early this month the lead U.S. negotiator in those talks, undersecretary of state Wendy Sherman, assured skeptical senators that Iran’s missiles – the increasingly sophisticated warhead delivery systems it is developing, testing and deploying – will be covered under a final agreement.
“It is true that in these first six months we’ve not shut down all of their production of any ballistic missile that could have anything to do with delivery of a nuclear weapon,” she testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “But that is indeed going to be part of something that has to be addressed as part of a comprehensive agreement.”
The text of the JPOA is silent on the issue of missiles or delivery systems. But it does includes a reference to applicable U.N. Security Council resolutions being dealt with as part of a comprehensive agreement, and Sherman said that means that missiles will be on the table.
“The Joint Plan of Action does address the fact that their ballistic missiles that could be used as a delivery system for nuclear weapons must be addressed as part of a comprehensive solution, because it is part of the U.N. Security Council resolutions,” she said.
(Five out of six U.N. Security Council resolutions on the Iran nuclear issue adopted between 2006 and 2010 cite the ballistic missile threat.)
But Iran has been pushing back in recent days, with Khamenei’s comments Monday only the latest of several:
--“The defense-related issues are a red line for Iran,” deputy foreign minister and senior nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi said last week in relating to the missile program. “We will not allow such issues to be discussed in future talks.”
--“No such issue has been raised in the negotiations so far. Issues related to the missile program are surely among our red lines in the negotiations,” Mohsen Rezai, secretary of the Expediency Council – a body that advises the supreme leader – told reporters in Tehran on Sunday.
--“These issues [missiles and human rights] are not relevant topics for these negotiations. We insist on discussing the issues which were agreed upon in the last round of talks,” Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told state news agency IRNA on Monday.
A week ago Iran claimed to have successfully test-fired two new domestically-manufactured missiles, including one which it described as a long-range ballistic missile capable of evading radar detection.
Iran in the past test-fired missiles including the Sejil-2, a solid-fueled, two-stage weapon with a range of around 1,200 miles, capable of reaching as far as south-eastern Europe.
Its proven ability to put a satellite into space, in 2009 and again in 2011, has demonstrated further advances in intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)-applicable technologies, according to the Pentagon.
In a report last year the U.S. National Air and Space Intelligence Center said the intelligence community assesses that “Iran could develop and test an ICBM capable of reaching the United States by 2015.”