Less than 10 days into U.S. President Donald Trump’s term in office Iran test-launched a ballistic missile, proving once more how the Obama administration’s appeasement policy was an utter failure.
It is now up to the new Trump administration to right the many wrongs of their predecessors, and begin correctly enforcing every single aspect of the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), parallel to a side agreement calling on Iran to refrain from such provocative missile testing and further hostility.
Tensions are rising, seen in recent statements made by senior U.S. officials.
U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley highlighted the threat posed by Iran in the Middle East, underscoring how Syria cannot transform into a “safe haven for terrorists” and the necessity of getting “Iran and their proxies out”.
“Iran poses the greatest long-term threat to stability for this part of the world,” said CENTCOM commander Gen. Joseph L. Votel at a Thursday hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
There are also reports of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards stationing units near the Golan Heights, opposite Israeli troops across the 1967 ceasefire line.
Troubles have further escalated as Iran test-fired two short-range ballistic missiles last weekend, IRGC fast-attack boats staged a new episode of harassing a U.S. Navy surveillance vessel on Thursday and went ahead to launch laser-guided anti-ship missile hitting a target at a range of 250 kilometers.
The U.S. satellite intelligence network identified January 29th testing from the missile launch heat signatures. Iran’s medium-range ballistic missile, dubbed the “Khorramshahr”, was able to travel around 600 miles (960 kilometers/550 nautical miles) before failing to reenter Earth’s atmosphere and exploding as a result.
In September of last year Iranian Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehqan indicated Iran would make good on intentions to initiate such missile production.
In response to Tehran’s seemingly bold move, U.S. Senator Bob Corker, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a known JCPOA critic, blasted Iran for violating specific international commitments.
“No longer will Iran be given a pass for its repeated ballistic missile violations, continued support of terrorism, human rights abuses and other hostile activities that threaten international peace and security,” Corker said in a statement.
Iran has a long history of violating United Nations Security Council resolutions through a variety of ballistic missile activities. This includes UNSC Resolution 1929, of which Iran was accused of violating by U.S. officials back in 2015.
Iran is also known to be flaunting restrictions imposed by a U.N. ban, as part of the 2015-sealed JCPOA, restricting such test launches for eight years.
U.N. Resolution 2231, passed to bless the JCPOA, demanded 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 new U.S. State Department also voiced grave concerns in this regard.
“When actions are taken that violate or are inconsistent with the resolution, we will act to hold Iran accountable and urge other countries to do so as well,” said U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner, indicating how Washington will consider Iran a major confrontational subject.
If there were any hope of Iran curbing its ballistic missile program as sought by JCPOA founders, the latest missile test has literally put an end to such wishful thinking.
“Iran is always working on every aspect of its missile program: better guidance, more payload capacity, and better reliability,” said Christopher Harmer, a military analyst at the Institute for the Study of War.
The Trump administration now faces a new challenge and opportunity on how to strategically respond to this first provocation that can be evaluated as Tehran seeking to test new Washington limits.
Considering its major role in domestic crackdown, foreign military intervention and most significantly the involvement in Syria, and Iran’s nuclear program and ballistic missile drive, the first and very effective step forward in this roadmap can be to label Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
The IRGC has transformed into a vast political and economic empire in Iran, enjoying unprecedented control and a “network of companies that came to dominate Iranian industries from energy to telecommunications,” according to The Wall Street Journal.
The Iranian opposition, itself a victim of IRGC-led attacks, has for years promoted a policy to contain the IRGC and recently welcomed the new U.S. sanctions on Iran.
The NCRI is a coalition of Iranian dissident groups including the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), known for its long track record of blowing the whistle on Iran’s clandestine nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
For at least 18 months Iran has conducted a slate of missile tests that should be considered unacceptable acts of aggression deserving the type of action to make Tehran understand such measures will render consequences.
Blacklisting the IRGC would send such a message. After the Obama administration turned its back on the Iranian people back in 2009, the Trump administration has an opportunity to show them its support and stand on the right side of history.