"I find hope in the work of long-established groups such as the Arms Control Association...[and] I find hope in younger anti-nuclear activists and the movement around the world to formally ban the bomb."

– Vincent Intondi
Professor of History, Montgomery College
July 1, 2020
Kelsey Davenport

IAEA Urges Iran to Cooperate

April 2020
By Kelsey Davenport

Tehran is refusing to cooperate with an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) investigation into possible undeclared nuclear materials and activities in Iran, saying that the agency’s evidence is biased.

Amb. Jackie Wolcott, U.S. representative to the IAEA, attends an agency meeting in July 2019. She raised "very serious concerns" about Iran's compliance with its IAEA nuclear safeguards agreement. (Photo: Dean Calma/IAEA)IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi laid out the agency’s attempts since January 2019 to get information from Tehran about the possible storage and use of nuclear materials at three locations in Iran in a March 3 report to the agency’s Board of Governors.

In December, Grossi said that Iran was not responding satisfactorily to IAEA questions and revealed in February that he may ask for support from the agency’s 35-member Board of Governors if Tehran continued to refuse to cooperate with IAEA requests.

Iran has “not engaged in substantive discussions” to clarify agency questions about possible use and storage of nuclear materials and has “not provide access to these locations,” Grossi said on March 9. He called on Tehran to “cooperate immediately and fully” with IAEA efforts.

As a state-party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), Iran is required to implement a safeguards agreement with the IAEA. A safeguards agreement includes a declaration detailing the country’s nuclear activities and the locations of nuclear materials. The IAEA is responsible for verifying that a country’s nuclear materials are accounted for and being used for peaceful purposes.

As part of its implementation of the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran also agreed to provisionally implement an additional protocol to its safeguards agreement. The additional protocol gives the IAEA access to additional information about a country’s nuclear program, provides expanded access for inspectors, and allows for greater use of environmental sampling to test for the presence of nuclear materials.

The March 3 report says that the IAEA requested access to two of the sites in January 2020 to take environmental samples, but Iran has not allowed inspectors to visit those locations. The agency also observed activities that appeared consistent with sanitization efforts at one of the sites, the report said.

Iran dismissed the allegations of concealment as based on false reports from countries hostile to Iran. “Any absurd claim made by any regime or individual should not be the basis of the agency’s questions,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Seyyed Abbas Mousavi said on March 11.

He may be referring to information that Israel stole from Iran in 2018 and later shared with the IAEA. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the documents provide details about Iran’s past nuclear weapons work and has urged the IAEA to follow up on the information.

The March 3 report did not reference material provided by any state, but noted that all safeguards-relevant information provided to the IAEA is subject to “an extensive and rigorous corroboration process.”

Based on the IAEA report and Iran’s communications with the agency, it appears that the locations in question may be storing materials from Iran’s past nuclear weapons program and are not being used for ongoing or recent illicit nuclear activities.

In a Jan. 28 letter to the IAEA, Iran said it “does not consider itself obliged to respond to such allegations” because Tehran met its obligations under the 2015 nuclear deal to cooperate with the IAEA investigation into past nuclear activities.

The 2015 agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, required Iran to comply with the IAEA investigation into what was then known as the “possible military dimensions” of Iran’s nuclear program prior to receiving any sanctions relief.

The IAEA published a report in December 2015 concluding that Iran had a nuclear weapons program prior to 2003 and that some of the activities continued through 2009, but that there was no evidence of weaponization activities after 2009 or any credible indication that nuclear materials had been diverted for those programs.

Although the report closed the IAEA investigation into Iran’s past nuclear weapons activities, the agency is still required to investigate any evidence of undeclared nuclear activities.

Jackie Wolcott, U.S. representative to the IAEA, told the IAEA Board of Governors on March 11 that the IAEA report raises “very serious concerns regarding Iran’s compliance with its safeguards obligations” and noted that Iran “could be” violating its safeguards agreement.

She said that “any further delay, denial, or deception by Iran that inhibits” IAEA work “would require that the board appropriately escalate this issue.”


Tehran has stonewalled efforts to investigate allegations that it may be storing undeclared nuclear materials or information.

India Intercepts Suspected Missile Gear

April 2020
By Kelsey Davenport

India seized Chinese-manufactured equipment bound for Pakistan in February that officials claimed could be used for Islamabad’s ballistic missile program.

A solid-fuel Shaheen 2 missile is displayed in a Pakistani military parade in March 2018. On Feb. 3, Indian authorities confiscated equipment they said was bound for Pakistan's missile program (Photo: Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images)India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) said that an industrial autoclave was found on a ship that left Jiangyin Port, China and was headed to Karachi, Pakistan. The ship was detained in India’s Kandla Port on Feb. 3 when the autoclave was confiscated on the basis of an intelligence tip-off, according to Indian officials quoted in the press. The ship was then allowed to continue to Pakistan.

The DRDO said the autoclave seized from the ship was listed as an industrial dryer. Autoclaves are a dual-use technology that can be used in the production of rocket motors for ballistic missiles. India passed a law in 2005 that prohibits the trans-shipment of materials and technologies relevant to developing weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian disputed the Indian description of the seized machine and said on March 5 that it was a heat-treating furnace, not an autoclave. Zhao said that the furnace “is by no means a piece of military equipment or a dual-use item,” and therefore not subject to nonproliferation export controls.

He said that the machine was produced by a private company in China and was declared correctly.

“As a responsible major country, China has been strictly fulfilling the international nonproliferation obligations and international commitments,” he said.

The U.S. intelligence community has documented Chinese support for Pakistan’s ballistic missile program in the past. China has also provided essential technology to Pakistan's nuclear weapons program.

Indian authorities confiscated equipment they said was intended for Pakistan’s missile program.

IAEA Raises Safeguards Questions | P4+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert

IAEA Raises Safeguards Questions International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Rafael Grossi raised concerns in March about Tehran’s failure to cooperate with an agency investigation into possible storage and use of undeclared nuclear materials at three locations in Iran. In a March 3 report to the agency’s Board of Governors, Grossi outlined the agency’s efforts since January 2019 to request information from Iran about activities at the sites and documented Tehran’s refusal to cooperate with the agency’s investigation. Iran also refused the IAEA’s request in January 2020 to...

The IAEA’s March Reports on Iran’s Nuclear Activities Raise Questions

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) distributed two reports on Iran’s nuclear program March 3 that raise new questions about the country’s nuclear activities and its international legal obligations. The IAEA’s most recent regular quarterly report on Iran’s implementation of the 2015 nuclear deal (issued March 3 and made public March 11) notes a concerning increase in Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium and its number of operating centrifuge machines. However, Tehran’s continued compliance with the monitoring measures put in place by the agreement, known as the Joint...

Risks and Realities of Extending the UN Arms Embargo on Iran



Volume 12, Issue 2, March 5, 2020

More than a decade ago, the United States and its partners secured UN Security Council support for a series of resolutions imposing increasingly tough sanctions on Iran as part of an effort to pressure Tehran into multilateral talks to curb its nuclear program and block its pathways to nuclear weapons.

The United States along with China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the European Union (P5+1), combined international pressure with multilateral negotiations, a strategy that produced the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The JCPOA successfully rolled back Iran’s nuclear program, imposed a stringent new set of monitoring and verification requirements, some of which are permanent, and established an array of restrictions that limited Iran’s uranium enrichment for more than a decade, and effectively closed off its capability to produce plutonium. The deal also includes a permanent prohibition on certain nuclear weapons-related activities that also have non-nuclear applications. In exchange, Iran received relief from the United States, the United Nations, and European Union sanctions that were imposed as part of the pressure campaign.

Despite Iran’s adherence to the JCPOA, President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the agreement in May 2018 and violated U.S. JCPOA commitments by reimposing sanctions on Iran. The Trump administration also urged other countries to refrain from conducting legitimate business with Iran.

A year after Trump’s announcement, Iran stated that it would begin reducing compliance with the JCPOA, and it has taken a series of five steps designed to press the remaining parties to the deal to deliver on sanctions relief envisioned by the accord. Iranian officials continue to reiterate that its violations are reversible and that Tehran will return to compliance if its demands on sanctions relief are met.

The Arms Embargo, Nuclear Sanctions, and the JCPOA

As part of the initial, broader effort to pressure Iran into negotiating over its nuclear program, the UN Security Council passed several resolutions that imposed an arms embargo on Iran. (A full list of UN Security Council resolutions on Iran is available online.) The arms embargo provisions are, therefore, a nuclear-related sanction. U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice originally emphasized in 2010, when the arms embargo was expanded as part of Resolution 1929, that the sanctions would be suspended if a nuclear deal was reached.

In a statement issued on behalf of the P5+1, the United Kingdom’s ambassador to the UN, Sir Mark Lyall Grant, made a similar point about the intent of the sanctions in Resolution 1929. He said the aim of the sanctions was “to achieve a comprehensive and long-term settlement which would restore international confidence in the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme.”

During negotiations on the JCPOA, Iran argued that the arms embargo should be lifted immediately upon implementation of the nuclear deal and Russia and China supported that effort, according to former Secretary of State John Kerry. Kerry said that the United States pressed for retaining it and negotiated the five-year extension, which is reflected in Annex B, Paragraph 5 of Security Council Resolution 2231.

Resolution 2231, which was adopted unanimously by the Security Council in 2015, endorsed the JCPOA, lifted the majority of the UN sanctions and modified other nuclear-related measures, such as the arms embargo and prohibition on ballistic missile transfers. Under the terms of Resolution 2231, this five-year period ends in October 2020, unless UN sanctions on Iran are snapped back into place. Kerry described the five-year extension as a victory for the United States because, as he noted in 2015, Resolution 1929 “says specifically that if Iran comes to negotiate – not even get a deal, but comes to negotiate – sanctions would be lifted.”

Now, press reports indicate that some opponents of the JCPOA are pressing Congressional members to support a renewal or extension of the arms embargo at the UN Security Council. Although these Congressional efforts do not explicitly reference support for the snapback mechanism set up in Resolution 2231, urging the Trump administration to ensure the continuation of the UN arms embargo could be interpreted by Trump as a green light from Congress to pursue that strategy. (And because a wholly new resolution seeking to extend the arms embargo on Iran would assuredly be vetoed by Russia or China.)

On a superficial level, calls for extending the arms embargo on Iran may seem like a useful and politically expedient response to Iran’s aggressive activities in the Middle East region. But in reality, such exhortations could undermine regional security by facilitating the Trump administration’s efforts to dismantle the JCPOA completely.

Reimposing UN Sanctions Would Collapse the Iran Nuclear Deal

Although the Trump administration announced its withdrawal from the JCPOA in May 2018 and is no longer party to the agreement, some members of the  Trump administration believe the United States can still use the mechanism set out in Resolution 2231 to reimpose UN sanctions on Iran, including the arms embargo. "We're aiming to get that [arms embargo] extended," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said March 5.

The Trump administration appears to believe that it can still trigger sanctions snapback at the Security Council because the United States was never formally removed from the original list of JCPOA participating states in Resolution 2231.

Other UN Security Council members, who strongly support the JCPOA, will argue that this legal argument is baseless since Trump declared that the United States is no longer a party to the JCPOA. They will surely seek to block any effort to put the issue of snapping back sanctions on Iran on the Security Council’s agenda. Once and if the issue is put on the Security Council agenda, however, the process for reimposing sanctions under Resolution 2231 cannot be vetoed.

If the Trump administration is successful in snapping back UN sanctions, the JCPOA will very likely collapse, which could trigger a new nuclear crisis.

Iran has made clear that it will withdraw from the nuclear if any state attempts to pursue a snapback at the Security Council. In that event, Iran’s nuclear program would be unconstrained and could be subject to far less intrusive monitoring.

Additionally, pushing to renew the arms embargo now based on Iran’s destabilizing regional activity further damages U.S. credibility. Arguing that the arms embargo should be extended on that basis changes the original intent and motivation behind the sanctions, which was to pressure Iran to negotiate on its nuclear program. Altering the requirements for lifting those sanctions reinforces the message to Iran that the United States cannot be trusted to waive sanctions if Tehran meets the originally described pathway to lifting the restrictions. This would make any future negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program even more difficult, as Iran will have little reason to trust the United States would follow through on its commitments.

The expiration of the arms embargo could have troublesome consequences, but the United States has other tools to address Iran’s conventional arms trade that do not risk a collapse of the 2015 nuclear deal and inflict damage to the reputation and influence of the United States.

Calls to extend the arms embargo risk conveying Congressional support for triggering the UNSC Resolution 2231 snapback mechanism, which would only escalate the Trump administration’s self-created crisis over Iran’s nuclear program and further undermine U.S. and international security.

The smarter approach for U.S. policymakers is to support more realistic and effective diplomatic efforts, beginning with a return to U.S. and Iranian compliance to the JCPOA, and a broader negotiation on a follow-on nuclear agreement that builds on the 2015 deal and that takes on other issues of mutual concern, including destabilizing arms transfers to states in the Middle East region.—KELSEY DAVENPORT, director for nonproliferation policy, and DARYL G. KIMBALL, executive director.

On a superficial level, calls for extending the arms embargo on Iran may seem like a useful and politically expedient response to Iran’s aggressive activities in the Middle East region. But in reality, such exhortations could undermine regional security.

Country Resources:

Europe Seeks to Avoid UN Iran Sanctions

March 2020
By Kelsey Davenport

The three European parties to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal triggered the accord’s dispute resolution mechanism in January, potentially buying time to preserve the deal, but also increasing the risk that suspended UN sanctions on Iran could be snapped back. France, Germany, and the United Kingdom said they had “no choice” but to initiate the process on Jan. 14 after Iran’s announcement nine days earlier of its fifth violation of the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). (See ACT, January/February 2020.)

Josep Borrell Fontelles, the high representative of the European Union, attends an EU foreign ministers meeting in January. He later said that France, Germany and the UK will try to draw out the JCPOA dispute resolution mechanism to avoid referring Iran to the UN Security Council. (Photo: Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)Once commenced, the dispute resolution mechanism begins with a 15-day review by the JCPOA Joint Commission, the body created to oversee the deal’s implementation. If it cannot resolve allegations of noncompliance, the foreign ministers of the participating JCPOA countries have 15 days to resolve the complaint. At the same time, or in lieu of ministerial consideration, a three-member advisory board can issue a nonbinding recommendation that the Joint Commission can consider for five days. The time periods for consideration by the Joint Commission and at the ministerial level can be extended by consensus.

If no resolution is achieved, any JCPOA participant can then refer the dispute to the UN Security Council, but such a step is not an automatic consequence of the dispute resolution mechanism process.

The terms of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which eased UN sanctions against Iran after the JCPOA was negotiated, allow for those sanctions to be restored easily. Any council member may introduce a new resolution to continue lifting the sanctions, and if the resolution fails, the sanctions would be restored. The process thus bypasses the veto power of the council’s five permanent members (China, France, Russia, the UK, and the United States).

A referral to the Security Council would likely collapse the JCPOA as Tehran has threatened to withdraw from the JCPOA and the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty if the case ends up before the Security Council.

The Trump administration reportedly threatened to impose a tariff on European automobile parts imported to the United States if the three European nations failed to trigger the dispute resolution mechanism. Although the three said they decided to use the mechanism independently of U.S. President Donald Trump’s threat, the timing created speculation that they folded under pressure from the United States.

Their statement, however, emphasized that they are “not joining a campaign to implement maximum pressure against Iran” and reiterated their commitment to the JCPOA. The three nations have made clear that triggering the dispute resolution mechanism is designed to preserve the deal and address Iran’s breaches, but the move does increase the risk that Security Council sanctions could be reimposed on Iran. Still, during a Feb. 4 trip to Tehran, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell Fontelles said that the three European nations agreed to “continuously postponing the dates and time limits” of the mechanism to avoid Security Council referral.

He also emphasized that the dispute resolution mechanism “is not a measure orientated to finish with the deal, but to try to keep it alive, to give time for negotiation.” Borrell said he expected “some positive steps on the nuclear side” and “some positive aspects on the economic side” to come out of the process.

After meeting with Borrell in Tehran on Feb. 4, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that Iran is “still ready for interaction and cooperation” with the European Union to resolve issues and will “return to its commitments” when the other parties to the deal meet their obligations.

The agreement to extend the dispute resolution process creates time, but it is unclear what steps the remaining parties are willing and able to take to provide Iran with sanctions relief that Tehran is demanding.

The three European nations have attempted to set up a trade mechanism to preserve legitimate trade with Iran that bypasses U.S. sanctions, but the mechanism has yet to process a transaction.

A Swiss effort to create a payment mechanism to facilitate transactions for humanitarian goods is nearly operational, the Swiss government announced on Jan. 30, but it is limited in scope to medical exports, pharmaceuticals, and food.

The three European nations may just be attempting to buy time until after the U.S. presidential election in November. The Democratic candidates for the nomination have all expressed their intent to rejoin the JCPOA.

Despite the three nations’ intentions to use the dispute resolution mechanism to preserve the deal, the move could backfire. Failure to continue extending the consultative periods, or the Trump administration pressuring one of them to break consensus, could result in Iran being referred back to the Security Council.

The Trump administration may also choose to paint the dispute resolution mechanism process as a failure if it does not address Iran’s noncompliance and try to force the Security Council to reimpose sanctions unilaterally.

Given that Trump withdrew the United States from the accord in May 2018, it is unclear if Washington has legal recourse to go directly to the Security Council to reimpose sanctions on Iran.

Resolution 2231 allows any JCPOA participant to refer an allegation of noncompliance directly to the Security Council. The resolution was not amended to remove the United States as a participating state after the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA.

The U.S. State Department has reportedly written a memo outlining its case for why the United States can still refer Iran to the Security Council for significant noncompliance, and several members of Congress are pressuring the Trump administration to pursue this route.

The remaining parties to the deal, however, appear poised to challenge any U.S. attempt to use the Security Council to reimpose sanctions.

An official from one of the three European countries told Arms Control Today that “Trump does not get to pick and choose the parts of the deal” to advance his interests. The official suggested that any U.S. attempt to reimpose sanctions at the Security Council would be challenged by other members of the JCPOA.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has continued to ratchet up pressure on Iran as the remaining parties to the JCPOA attempt to preserve the accord. The United States sanctioned the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) and its leader, Ali Akbar Salehi, in late January. According to a Jan. 31 announcement, Salehi was targeted for playing a “leading role in Iran’s nonperformance of its key nuclear commitments.” The AEOI was already subject to sanctions reimposed when the United States withdrew from the Iran deal.

The AEOI responded to the sanctions Jan. 31 by calling the move “unwise” and said it would “not in any way interrupt [Iran’s] peaceful nuclear activities and policies.”

But the Trump administration did renew sanctions waivers for 60 days, allowing several cooperative nuclear projects with Iran to continue. The Jan. 31 announcement by the State Department did not specify what JCPOA projects will be included, but the waivers likely cover modifications at the unfinished heavy-water reactor at Arak, the transfer of spent fuel out of Iran, the provision of fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor, and activities at the Bushehr power reactor.

During his visit, Borrell also requested that Iran continue to abide by the monitoring and verification provisions of the JCPOA. When Iran announced in January that it would no longer adhere to any restrictions put in place by the deal, Tehran affirmed its intent to continue to comply with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections.

IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi said on Feb. 5 that Iran continues to adhere to its safeguards agreement and its additional protocol, a more intrusive set of monitoring measures required by the JCPOA.

Grossi said in a Feb. 4 interview that if Iran is implementing its additional protocol, the international community “will always have prompt warning about any…concerning development.”


By triggering the JCPOA's dispute resolution mechanism, three European nations hope to save the accord.

Iran Displays New Solid-Fuel Missile

March 2020
By Kelsey Davenport

Iran unveiled a new short-range ballistic missile and touted its solid-fueled rocket motor advancements during a Feb. 9 ceremony, demonstrating the nation’s continuing efforts to develop more sophisticated systems.

Gen. Amir Hajizadeh, head of the Revolutionary Guard's Aerospace Force Command, speaks in 2019. He announced Iran's development of a new, solid-fueled ballistic missile during a Feb. 9 ceremony. (Photo by Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images)The new missile, named the Ra’ad-500, has a range of 500 kilometers, according to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force Command. Iran has previously developed missiles with similar ranges, but the command described the Ra’ad as lighter and more accurate.

The IRGC ceremony also featured a rocket engine fueled by a “new generation of propellants” and incorporating “moveable nozzles” for ballistic missiles and satellite launch vehicles. IRGC Aerospace Force Brig. Gen. Amir Hajizadeh said the technology will give Iran the ability to “control solid-fuel missiles in the outer space.”

France, a member of the multilateral group that negotiated the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, said in a Foreign Ministry statement on Feb. 10 that Iran’s ballistic missile program “undermines regional stability and affects the security of Europe.” The statement called on Iran to “fully comply with its international obligations.”

UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the 2015 nuclear deal, includes nonbinding language calling on Iran to refrain from activities relevant to developing ballistic missiles designed to be nuclear capable. The nuclear-capable missile threshold is generally understood to be a system that can deliver a 500-kilogram payload at least 300 kilometers.

Although the new missile appears to exceed that limit, Iran argues that its ballistic missiles are not designed to carry nuclear weapons and therefore not covered by Resolution 2231.

Iran also attempted to put the Zafar-1 satellite into orbit Feb. 9 using its three-stage Simorgh space launch vehicle. The launch took place at the Imam Khomeini Spaceport.

Ahmad Hosseini, spokesman for the Iranian Defense Ministry, said on Feb. 9 that the first two stages of the rocket “functioned properly” and the “satellite was successfully detached from its carrier” but failed to achieve the necessary speed to enter orbit. Despite the failure, Hosseini described the launch as “remarkable.”

The Zafar-1 is the heaviest satellite Iran has attempted to launch and would have been used for remote sensing and communications, according to the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology.

Iran has successfully launched satellites into orbit in the past, but recently suffered a string of failures. The Simorgh’s previous two launches, in 2017 and 2019, also failed to orbit satellites.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Feb. 11 that Iran’s satellite launches use technologies that are “virtually identical and interchangeable with those used in longer-range” ballistic missile systems. Satellite launch vehicles and ballistic missiles do share similar features, but long-range ballistic missiles require technologies, such as reentry vehicles, not necessary for space launch.

The Feb. 10 French statement also condemned the satellite launch as contrary to Resolution 2231, noting that the Simorgh uses ballistic missile technology.

Although the language on testing is nonbinding, Resolution 2231 prohibits Iran from transferring missiles and related technologies without approval from the Security Council. The United States has accused Iran of violating that provision on multiple occasions, and the UN secretary-general continues to investigate alleged incidents of illegal transfers.

The United States announced on Dec. 4 that it had seized a cache of Iranian missile components headed for Yemen in violation of international law.

U.S. Defense Department spokesman Cmdr. Sean Robertson said the initial investigation into the seized parts “indicates that these advanced missile components are of Iranian origin,” but did not provide any details on what was seized. Reportedly, the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard boarded a small boat in the Arabian Sea on Nov. 27 and discovered the cache, which has been described as the most advanced missile components bound for Yemen that the United States has intercepted.

A biannual report from the UN secretary-general on implementation of Resolution 2231 did not cover the seizure confirmed by the Pentagon on Dec. 4, but it said that the secretary-general’s office is investigating a U.S. allegation that Iran received a shipment containing a compound that can be used for solid-fueled rocket motor propellant in violation of Resolution 2231.

France, Germany, and the United Kingdom also informed the secretary-general’s office that Houthi forces in Yemen launched a new medium-range ballistic missile that shares similar features to an Iranian system, the Qiam-1. They said that Iran “may be acting in breach” of Resolution 2231.

In a letter to the secretary-general, Iran denied the claim made by the European countries and said the argument that Resolution 2231 prohibits the transfer of missile technology is a “distortion of the text.” Iran also said that, for “political reasons,” the Security Council has been prevented from “actual operationalization for the necessary mechanism for making required decisions to permit such activities.”

The Dec. 10 report also included the secretary-general’s assessment of the cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles used in an attack against Saudi oil facilities in September.

Saudi Arabia provided the secretary-general’s office with access to debris from the attack and said on Sept. 18 that the weapons used were Iranian made. The United States also accused Iran of being behind the attack.

The secretary-general’s office examined the debris and was “unable to independently corroborate” that those systems came from Iran, but said that investigations into the origins of the systems are ongoing.


Iran presses forward with new technologies.

India Tests Submarine-Launched Missile

March 2020
By Kelsey Davenport

India conducted two tests of a nuclear-capable, submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) in January. When deployed, the missile, known as the K-4, will significantly expand India’s second-strike capability.

India tests its K-4 missile from a submerged platform in January. The Indian Navy plans to deploy the 3,500-kilometer-range missile on Arihant-class submarines. (Photo: Pallava Bagla/Corbis/Getty Images)The Jan. 19 and Jan. 25 tests of the K-4 were both conducted from submerged pontoons in the Bay of Bengal. The Indian Defence Research and Development Organisation, which developed the missile, did not comment on either test, but Indian officials were quoted in news outlets describing the launches as successful.

The K-4 has an estimated range of 3,500 kilometers. Prior to the January tests, it had been launched successfully in 2016 from a submarine, but a subsequent test in 2017 failed. Conducting the January 2020 tests from a submerged pontoon could have been intended to prevent any damage to India’s ballistic missile submarines in the event of a failure.

India plans to deploy the K-4 on its domestically built Arihant-class ballistic missile submarines. Two of the submarines are complete, and New Delhi intends to build two or three more. The existing submarines will likely be able to carry four K-4s, but subsequent submarines could be expanded to fit eight launch tubes.

India’s deployed nuclear-capable SLBM, the K-15, has an estimated range of 700 kilometers. The K-15 was successfully tested from an Airhant submarine in 2018 and likely deployed shortly afterward, as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in November 2018 that the country’s first ballistic missile submarine had completed its inaugural deterrence patrol. (See ACT, December 2018.) Airhant-class submarines can carry up to 12 K-15 missiles.

At the time, Modi said India was pursuing a second-strike capability in response to “those who indulge in nuclear blackmail.”

The K-15’s range would allow India to target parts of Pakistan, but New Delhi would need the longer-range K-4 to reach Islamabad and northern parts of Pakistan. The extended range of the K-4 would also allow India to reach more targets in China. Increasingly, India’s focus on developing and deploying longer-range, nuclear-capable ballistic missiles appears directed at countering China, not Pakistan.

Pakistan has referred to India’s pursuit of SLBMs as destabilizing, arguing that they are the first “ready-to-fire” missiles deployed in South Asia.

Indian and Pakistani nuclear warheads are largely believed to be de-mated, or stored separately from delivery systems. On a submarine, however, de-mating is not feasible, and the warheads are installed atop the ballistic missiles.

India continues to develop its sea-based deterrent.


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