Few Options for Israel Against Iran's Ballistic Missile Program, Experts Say

Defense News cites host of Israeli defense analysts who say there is nothing in the nuclear deal, or UN decisions, that prohibit Iran from developing ballistic missiles.

A ballistic missile is launched and tested in an undisclosed location, Iran, in this handout photo released by Farsnews on March 9, 2016.
A ballistic missile is launched and tested in an undisclosed location, Iran, in this handout photo released by Farsnews on March 9, 2016. Reuters

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and members of his Western allies lack serious options to penalize Iran in the wake of its recent ballistic missile tests, Israeli defense experts admit in a report by Defense News, because nothing prevents such tests in the nuclear deal signed in 2015.

Netanyahu urged world powers that signed the nuclear deal to “prevent Iran” from violating UN Security Council decisions. “It cannot be that Iran will not be punished for this,” Netanyahu told Cabinet ministers March 13.

However, the experts noted in the report, neither the agreement nor pertinent UN Security Council resolutions provide for such sanctions.

“There’s nothing in the JCPOA with regard to ballistic missiles because the P5+1 conceded on that point as soon as the negotiations began,” Emily Landau, senior research fellow at Tel Aviv’s Institute for National Security Studies, observed, referring to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, which negotiated the nuclear deal with Iran.

The same goes for UN Security Council resolutions, such as Resolution 2231 passed last July, according to the report.

“Resolution 2231 ‘calls’ on Iran not to test nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, but it doesn’t ‘demand’ they do so,” Tal Inbar, head of the Space Research Center of the Fighter Institute for Air & Space Strategic Studies, told Defense News. “There’s no punishment … and it’s silly for Netanyahu to think otherwise.”

Shmuel Sandler, a foreign policy specialist at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, noted that as long as Barack Obama remains president of the United States, Netanyahu has limited options.

“I think Obama’s administration will continue to swallow these provocations from Iran, which only emboldens the mullahs to act more brazenly,” he said.

He added, “Israel can’t do much other than to pressure the U.S., call upon the P5+1 to do something, and tell the world ‘I told you so.’”