Iran test-fired a new kind of ballistic missile using North Korean technology on the night of July 11-12, Fox News reported on Friday, citing multiple intelligence officials. The latest test, the ninth Iran carried out since it signed a nuclear deal with global powers last year, was held two days before the one-year anniversary of the deal’s announcement.The missile was fired from the city of Saman in western Iran and was a modified version of North Korea’s Musudan ballistic missile, which has a range of 2,500 miles — putting nearly all of the Middle East (including Israel) and much of mainland Europe within reach.
Iran’s previous launch, in May, featured a missile with an estimated range of around 1,250 miles. Another launch, in March, included a missile with a range of around 870 miles that had the phrase “Israel must be wiped from the face of the earth” inscribed on it in Hebrew.
Iran’s continued ballistic missile tests are being carried out in defiance of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, which codified last year’s nuclear deal and calls on Iran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.” The resolution also says that Iran must abide by previous Security Council resolutions, which placed restrictions on ballistic missile work until 2023.
NATO leaders said in a joint communique last week that they were “seriously concerned by the development of Iran’s ballistic missile programme and continuing missile tests that are inconsistent with [Resolution] 2231.” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi replied on Monday that NATO’s statement was “a repetition of past baseless allegations.” Iran launched its missile that night.
An Iranian missile launch in October was officially found by the Security Council to be in violation of the resolutions, but the United States and the European Union have stopped short of classifying subsequent launches as violations. The Washington Post editorial board wrote in April that the Obama administration should work harder at penalizing Iran for its ballistic missile violations. (via TheTower.org)
A controversial new American plan that calls for increased U.S.-Russian military cooperation in Syria has come under heavy criticism for its potential to reward Moscow and strengthen Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Under the White House’s proposal, Washington and Moscow would coordinate air strikes on ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra (Al Qaeda’s Syria branch), establish a joint military command center through which the two countries would exchange intelligence and operational information on the locations of al-Nusra, and “synchronize” their independent operations against them. In return, Russia would use its leverage to halt the Assad regime’s air strikes in a war which has killed hundreds of thousands of Syrians indiscriminately.
Many defense officials have been critical of the plan, arguing that Russia cannot be trusted to deliver on its promises. While Moscow has claimed that it is pursuing a military campaign against ISIS, most of its airstrikes have targeted the Syrian opposition and been aimed at reinforcing the Assad regime. Russia and the Assad regime have routinely violated previous commitments, including ceasefires and agreements relating to access to humanitarian aid. Russian air strikes have targeted civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, and the Russian air force has repeatedly attacked U.S.-backed opposition groups, most recently last month after having been warned to stop.
Ramping up the effort against al-Nusra, which unlike ISIS is focused on fighting Syrian regime forces and their allies, would bolster the Assad regime. Al-Nusra often mingles with other opposition groups who could thus be inadvertently targeted. Furthermore, working with Russia, which has been a staunch ally to Assad, could undermine American credibility in the eyes of the Syrian people. Washington Institute for Near East Policy fellow Andrew Tabler argued that the plan is “crafted in such a way that it strengthens the regime, the opposite of what we say we want.”
Furthermore, the plan does not restrict Russian targeting to al-Nusra and ISIS, and contains loopholes in the form of vague language that Russia could exploit to bomb rebel groups the UN has not designated as terrorists. Some national security officials are concerned that information shared with Russia about the location of these groups could be used to target them. There are also no consequences stipulated in the proposal if Russia violates its commitments. On Tuesday, Frederic Hof, President Obama’s former Special Advisor for Transition in Syria, urged the administration to rethink its plans, explaining, “Victory over al-Qaeda in Syria cannot be purchased by making common cause with those whose support for eradication campaigns against civilians has made the country safe for ISIS and Nusra.”