State Department Spokesman Mark Toner's Comments on Iranian Ballistic Missile Test (Excerpts)

October 13, 2015

Weapon Program: 

  • Missile


QUESTION: So the White House just said that there’s strong indication that Iran’s test of a new precision-guided ballistic missile on Sunday violated a UN Security Council resolution. Was that your assessment as well, and what are the implications of this?

MR TONER: So yes, obviously agree with what the White House just said. We just – starting from point one and then moving forward, these kind of missile tests are not a violation of the JCPOA, which had been some of the questions that we’ve gotten about this, because the focus of the JCPOA clearly is on Iran’s nuclear program. But any conventional arms transfers or missile activity is currently prohibited by existing UNSCRs, or U.S. – UNSC resolutions, or prohibited in the future by UNSCR 2231 would be violations of Iran’s UN obligations and should be dealt with through the appropriate UN channels.



QUESTION: -- that’s – so what’s the next – how soon do you call --


QUESTION: -- the Security Council meeting to put new sanctions on?

MR TONER: So we’re going to raise – so we’re going to raise – sorry, in answer to your question: So we’re going to raise the incident at the UN, and then we’ll continue to do this for any and all Iranian violations of UN Security Council resolutions. I mean, we’ve seen for the past years that Iran has consistently ignored UN Security Council resolutions. And so obviously, it would be – it’s deeply concerning that this latest violation does appear to be a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1929. And we’ll obviously raise this at the UNSC, as we have done in previous launches.

QUESTION: To what end?

MR TONER: Well, that’s a --

QUESTION: I mean, are you calling for --

MR TONER: The Security Council will then --

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah. But, I mean, does the United – does the Administration believe that Iran should face new sanctions because it violated this Security Council resolution?

MR TONER: No, I mean, there’s already --


MR TONER: I mean, there – no. But there’s existing --

QUESTION: So there’s --

MR TONER: -- mechanisms through the Security Council --

QUESTION: So there’s no consequence to them just flouting the resolution and doing --

MR TONER: No, not at all. In fact, frankly, we’ve got a lot --

QUESTION: So you’re saying you’re agreeing, that there isn’t any.

MR TONER: We have a --

QUESTION: Or you --

MR TONER: No. There are mechanisms in place – come on, Matt.

QUESTION: Well, I --

MR TONER: No, there are --

QUESTION: The way you answered the question made it sound as if you agreed.

MR TONER: There are lots of unilateral and multilateral tools to continue to counter Iran’s ballistic missile program.

QUESTION: Okay. And the fact that – what you said is that – you said that Iran has – what did you say? – consistently ignored UN Security Council resolutions --

MR TONER: Ignored, yeah.

QUESTION: -- deeply troubling, deeply concerning. And if that fact didn’t – doesn’t give you any pause at all about whether they’ll stand by and abide by the JCPOA?

MR TONER: No, because the JCPOA is not, frankly, predicated on any hoped-for change in Iran’s behavior. It’s --

QUESTION: Well, right. But the JCPOA is an agreement between Iran, the Security Council members, and Germany.

MR TONER: Right. But let’s --

QUESTION: And the UN Resolution 1929 is the entire --

MR TONER: But let’s be very clear.

QUESTION: -- is Iran and the entire world.

MR TONER: But let’s be very clear.

QUESTION: And if they’re going to ignore the entire world, are – don’t you have any concern that they’re going to ignore six?

MR TONER: Let’s be very – well, going into it we had those concerns. That’s why the JCPOA was structured in a way that will hold Iran’s feet to the fire, so to speak, and it will not get any sanctions relief. If it wants to benefit from sanctions relief, it needs to comply with the JCPOA. And let’s not – let’s not forget that it didn’t – it did abide by the interim joint action – Joint Plan of Action.

QUESTION: Okay. But shouldn’t – but if it wants sanctions relief, shouldn’t it also abide by the other Security Council resolutions? I mean, let’s remember, in several years from now, presuming this all goes through, those missile – the ballistic missile sanctions are going to be dropped. So until that point, if there’s no punishment for – or there’s no consequence for --

MR TONER: Which is --

QUESTION: -- them doing these tests, they’re – why should they stop doing it?

MR TONER: But there is. I mean, we’re raising this at the UN Security Council. We believe at least it appears to be a violation of 1929, of UN Security Council Resolution 1929, and we’re going to take appropriate action. But it’s – that’s at the level of the Security Council. But --

QUESTION: Does 1929 include automatic sanctions in the case of a breach, or is it just --

MR TONER: I don’t know. I’d have to look. I’d have to get back to you on that. But we do have a lot of unilateral tools at our disposal as well to --

QUESTION: Okay. So when can we expect to see those tools being implemented?

MR TONER: We’ll look at it very closely. We’re looking at whether – looking to confirm this. As I said, we believe it was, and we’re going to continue to – or not continue, but we’re going to look at it closely. Once we’ve determined if it was in violation, then we’ll take appropriate action.

QUESTION: So the toolbox is still in the shed. Is that what you’re saying? It hasn’t been taken out and not yet – you haven’t yet opened it up to see what --

MR TONER: That’s a tortured metaphor. We do have --

QUESTION: I’m just trying to find – I mean, it seems --

MR TONER: We do have a toolbox.

QUESTION: -- pretty cut and – pretty clear that there was a violation here. And if the response is minimal, then there’s not going to be a --

MR TONER: It’s not minimal, Matt.

QUESTION: Well, but if it is, if it – and it doesn’t sound like people are really seized or just think of this as some kind of an urgent thing where there needs to be a Security Council meeting today on it, then it might give people – it might raise questions about whether – how you would deal with any potential violation of the JCPOA.

MR TONER: Okay. So first of all, to try to clarify my answer to you about what action will be taken, if these tests constitute a violation of existing UN Security Council resolutions, we would take appropriate action at the UN. But in addition, we have distinct domestic authorities to take action as appropriate against entities and individuals involved. And likewise, the Security Council and its Iran Sanctions Committee could take action to investigate the matter, engage Iran, and condemn the violation. And so let’s let this process play out before we --