Last weekend, Iran test-launched a long-range ballistic missile and today President Obama’s Administration has shot back—with a complaint lodged in the UN. The AP reports:
Power said that after reviewing available information, the United States has confirmed that the medium-range ballistic missile launched on Oct. 10 was “inherently capable of delivering a nuclear weapon.” She said this violated a U.N. Security Council resolution adopted on June 9, 2010 which imposed a fourth round of sanctions on Iran.
It was Iran’s first missile test since the historic nuclear deal reached July 14 between Iran and world powers. While condemning the ballistic missile test, the Obama administration made clear that it is “entirely separate” from the nuclear deal, which is aimed at preventing Iran from developing atomic weapons.
The Administration, then, is hanging its hat on the difference between the deal and the implementing resolution; ballistic missile testing, it argues, are covered by the latter but not the former. On the one hand, the decision to do even this much is welcome—many expected the Administration to basically say “nothing to see here” and move on. On the other, it now remains to be seen what, if anything, U.S. officials will do beyond lodging this protest.
Overall, this underlines the increasingly apparent reality that the Iran deal isn’t making foreign policy easier for President Obama—and that is normally what we mean by calling something a foreign policy success. Both Iran and Russia seem to enjoy more freedom of action and more options after the deal than before, and they’re not using those options to cooperate with the U.S. In fact, as Lara Rozen reported in Al Monitor, diplomatic contact is set to drop off sharply:
[A]fter two years of negotiations at which large US and Iranian delegations were meeting almost every month at a high level, often at the ministerial level, it seems that the tempo, seniority and range of diplomatic contacts between the United States and Iran in the implementation phase could be reduced for now to what is anticipated to be quarterly meetings of the Joint Commission.
At the end of the day, Iran sees the deal less as a stage in reconciling with the U.S. than as a platform for intensifying its effort to remake the region, an effort that necessarily involves actions opposed to American, and Israeli, interests. That means less talking, and more missile tests.