Will Sanctions Prompt Iran to Boost Missile Program?

By Abbas Qaidaari, for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iran Business News.

Only one day after the Jan. 16 announcement of the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the US Treasury unveiled new missile-related sanctions on Iran. The reason? Iran’s testing of its medium-range Emad ballistic missile in October.

Following the new sanctions, Maj. Gen. Mohsen Rezaei, one of Iran’s highest-ranking military officials, penned a letter to President Hassan Rouhani in which he wrote, “Just as Iran’s success in developing 20,000 centrifuges was a slap in the face of the United States and forced the Americans to come to the negotiating table and recognize our right to enrich uranium, I am hoping that with your support, the range of Iran’s missiles will exceed 5,000 kilometers [3,106 miles].”

Prior to Rezaei’s letter, senior Iranian officials had never declared any wish to develop missiles with such a long range, always emphasizing that they consider the current range of Iran’s missiles, which is 2,000 kilometers (1,242 miles), to be sufficient for national security. Thus, what is the possible use of the missiles Rezaei brought up?

Rezaei answered this question in his letter, writing, “Without a doubt, when our defense capabilities include 5,000-kilometer range missiles, a range capable of reaching a variety of targets including the island of Diego Garcia, the site of the United States Air Force base, which was used during the Tabas attack [Operation Eagle Claw], then the United States will repent and see the futility of such actions.”

But can Iran develop ballistic missiles with such a range? Does it possess the necessary technology? How will such a missile system fit within Iran’s military and defense doctrine? And under what circumstances would Iran attempt to develop and fire these types of ballistic missiles?

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