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Iran Forges Ahead With Its Ballistic Missiles

Iran is upgrading its military capabilities, including a ballistic missile system capable of carrying nuclear weapons, as Reuters reports:

Iran will unveil an upgrade of its Emad ballistic missiles this year, the defense minister was quoted as saying, advancing a program that has drawn criticism from the United Nations and sanctions from the United States.

The Islamic Republic would also start taking delivery of an advanced Russian S-300 surface-to-air missile defense system in the next two months, Hossein Dehghan added – a system that was blocked before a landmark nuclear deal with world powers.

Tehran agreed the deal on curbing its nuclear work in July last year and international sanctions were lifted in January. But tensions with Washington have remained high as Tehran continues to develop its military capabilities.

Iran is testing the limits of the nuclear deal and a UN resolution that proscribes Iranian ballistic missile testing. This isn’t the first time Iran has done this, and each such step puts Washington in a bind: either watch the instruments of international law that are supposed to contain Iran erode before our eyes, or react—but how?  The Obama Administration has demonstrated its reluctance to use military force, which in any case would be seen internationally in these matters as an overreaction. On the other hand, though, while Washington imposed targeted sanctions last month on the Iranian missile program, without the international sanctions regime that was previously crippling Iran’s economy, they no longer have as much sting in them.

Just as worrying are the broader strategic implications. The main justifications for Obama’s Iran deal was the idea that breaking the ice with the Iranians could lead to a thaw in relations. This is decidedly not what moderation looks like, however. Add to this the foundering of the Geneva peace talks and the advance of the Iranian-Russian-Assad forces towards Aleppo, as well as the recent refusal of Iranian hardliners to allow moderates to contest upcoming elections (even the Ayatollah Khomenei’s grandson has been barred for moderate sympathies), and you start to get the idea that engagement with Iran is maybe not working out quite the way some in the Obama Administration hoped it would.

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