US expert calls for dialogue about Iran’s missile programme

For full coverage of Middle East business, see MEED

The US should respond to Iran’s claim it doesn’t need missiles with a range greater than 2,000km and seek to codify that limit as part of a multi-track approach to containing the Islamic republic’s ballistic rocket programme, missile specialist Michae Elleman told the US Senate Committee on Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs yesterday.

The committee’s hearings follow complaints to the UN made by the US, the UK, France and Germany about Iran’s ballistic missile tests in March.US sanctions against Iran’s missile programme remain in place and were not covered by the relaxation of nuclear-related sanctions in January.

Ballistic missiles are central to Iran’s deterrence posture and will remain so for the foreseeable future,” Elleman said. “The priority assigned to ballistic missiles is reflected by the size and scope of Iran’s arsenal, the largest and most diverse in the region. Given this importance, Iran will not surrender its current systems, except, possibly, under the direst of circumstances. Even if Iran acquires advanced military aircraft in the near future, ballistic missiles will continue to play a prominent role in its force structure.”

Elleman said the UN Panel of Experts on Iran should be reinstated to investigate Iran’s missile programme and that the Proliferation Security Initiative could be an effective tool for intercepting shipments from North Korea, Iran’s principal source for missile engines.

“Joint missile-defense exercises with our Gulf partners –and Israel — offer a tangible counter narrative to Iran’s missile tests, and possibly deter Iranian use of missiles,” Elleman said. “Joint-exercises will also serve to enhance the capabilities and effectiveness of the missile-defense systems deployed in the region.”

“Iran has said it does not need missiles with a range exceeding 2000 km,” Elleman said. “The U.S. should explore options that, at a minimum, would legally codify that range limit. Other limitations may be ripe for negotiation, including those that increase the transparency of Iran’s space program.”