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It’s getting too late for an effective missile deal with Iran.

The window for an Iran missile deal is already closing, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, By John Krzyzaniak | April 7, 2021 Calls to limit Iran’s missile program have become all the rage in Washington. In early March, a bipartisan group of 140 US lawmakers urged the Biden administration to pursue a more “comprehensive” deal with Iran that goes beyond the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to include not just Iran’s nuclear program but also its ballistic missile program and its support for non-state groups in the Middle East. Despite this and similar appeals, the prospects for even a modest missile deal with Iran are looking slimmer by the day. While the more ambitious proposals were unrealistic to begin with, the most feasible option—to lock in a 2,000-kilometer range limit on Iran’s ballistic missiles—may soon slip out of reach too.

Proposals for a missile agreement. Despite the heightened interest in constraining Iran’s missile capabilities, there have been few concrete proposals to accomplish that goal, and even fewer that are remotely plausible. 

On the more fanciful side, one proposal involves demanding that Iran give up any and all missiles capable of delivering a 500 kilogram (kg) payload to a range of 300 kilometers (km) or more, on the thesis that such missiles are inherently capable of delivering nuclear weapons. After all, the prospect of Iran’s missiles serving as delivery vehicles for nuclear weapons (if Iran ever decides to build them) is what most worries Western policymakers. Avner Golov and Emily B. Landau advocate for a deal to eliminate Iranian missiles that exceed the 500 kg–300 km threshold in a February 2018 article in Foreign Policy.

Setting aside that the definition of what constitutes a “nuclear-capable” missile is contested, there are three additional problems that make this proposal unworkable. First, depending on how different systems are counted, Iran has at least eight missile types that would be covered by such an agreement, and it would have to give them all up. Second, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates also have missiles that exceed the 500 kg–300 km threshold, and Iran would demand that those countries adhere to the same arrangement. Third, verification of such a deal would present a Herculean task involving an extensive, on-the-ground inspection presence.

None of these conditions seems remotely possible given the current political environment. In fact, Golov and Landau themselves admit that getting Iran to agree to a ban on missiles above the 500 kg–300 km threshold would be “extremely unlikely.”

On the more modest side is the recommendation to lock in a 2,000-km range limit on Iran’s ballistic missiles, including by banning the flight testing of missiles that exceed that range, made by Michael Elleman and Mark Fitzpatrick in a 2018 article in Foreign Policy. Robert Einhorn and Vann Van Diepen also include this among their recommendations in a 2019 report for Brookings…………

 if Western policymakers want to seize this modest but worthwhile option, they will need to act quickly, as recent events suggest that Iran may be preparing to throw off the self-imposed range limit. If Iran blows past 2,000-km ranges with its missiles, it won’t be easy to put the genie back in the bottle.

Why the window may be closing. The first and most glaring reason why a missile deal focused on capping Iran’s missiles at 2,000 km—or any missile deal for that matter—may be beyond reach is that there has been no revival of the 2015 nuclear agreement. Since the deal was agreed, Iranian officials including the supreme leader have signaled that the nuclear deal would be an important test in determining whether Western countries were good-faith negotiating partners or not. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif hammered home this point in an interview published in Politico on March 17, when he said, “if the US passes the test of [the nuclear deal] … then we can consider other issues.”

Fast forward six years, and Iranians—both government officials and the broader public—have been embittered by the experience of the 2015 agreement. In Zarif’s eyes, the United States has “miserably failed” the aforementioned test. Even if the deal is revived and the Biden administration lifts sanctions, convincing Iran to negotiate on its ballistic missiles in particular, which Iranian officials have repeatedly insisted are non-negotiable, would be a hard sell.

But it is Iran’s technological progress that is beginning to erode the 2,000-km range limit, increasing the probability that, as time goes by, Iran will officially cast it off……..Fast forward six years, and Iranians—both government officials and the broader public—have been embittered by the experience of the 2015 agreement. In Zarif’s eyes, the United States has “miserably failed” the aforementioned test. Even if the deal is revived and the Biden administration lifts sanctions, convincing Iran to negotiate on its ballistic missiles in particular, which Iranian officials have repeatedly insisted are non-negotiable, would be a hard sell.

But it is Iran’s technological progress that is beginning to erode the 2,000-km range limit, increasing the probability that, as time goes by, Iran will officially cast it off………………https://thebulletin.org/2021/04/the-window-for-an-iran-missile-deal-is-already-closing/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=ThursdayNewsletter04082021&utm_content=NuclearRisk_IranDealWindow_04072021

April 10, 2021 - Posted by | Iran, politics international, weapons and war

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