How to Stop Iran's Missile Program
Just four weeks ago, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s commander, Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, told the Associated Press that Tehran was imposing a 1,242-mile range limit on its surface-to-surface ballistic missiles. Although lax (all of Israel’s bases, and most of America’s in the Gulf and Middle East, fall within this range), this limit should be seen as a start. The question now is how much further might the United States and other like-minded countries be able to push Iran to impose tighter controls.
Washington would hardly be alone if it wanted to find out. France’s President Emmanuel Macron and Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian have called for bilateral talks with Iran about its missile program and the need to limit it. Earlier in October, German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel expressed concerns about Iran’s persistence in illicitly seeking missile technology from German firms. After Iran tested a 1,242-mile-range multiple-warhead Khorramshahr missile in late September, British foreign minister Boris Johnson protested as well.
All of these officials are concerned about the regional security implications of Iran’s missiles. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are now spending billions of dollars to procure U.S. missile defenses to meet the Iranian threat, including the rockets Yemen is launching with Iranian assistance. U.S. Patriot batteries have shot down more than one hundred of these Houthi missiles since 2015, but the attacks are getting worse. In July, Houthi forces launched a Burkan H2 missile several hundred miles at a Saudi oil refinery. In November, they went further, firing an Iranian Qiam 1 missile toward Riyadh itself. Only days after this strike, the Houthis threatened to hit targets in the UAE and claimed on December 3 to have fired a missile at a UAE nuclear plant (which UAE officials denied).
U.S. missile defense systems have intercepted most of these missiles. If Iran should share the maneuvering warhead technology it has proven on its one-thousand-plus-mile-range Emad missile, though, it is unlikely that any of the missiles defenses Saudi Arabia or the UAE have deployed would be so successful.
This has key congressional figures fretting. Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker, ranking member Ben Cardin and Senate Armed Services Committee member Tom Cotton have all expressed a keen interest in sanctioning Iranian missile tests, particularly of space launch vehicles, which effectively would give Tehran the means to place a nuclear warhead anywhere on the globe.