Time for Europe to Put Iran’s Missile Programme in Context

October 30, 2017

Weapon Program: 

  • Missile


Dr. Tytti Erästö


Stockholm International Peace Research Institute

European leaders have clearly set themselves apart from the United States and the administration of President Donald J. Trump in relation to the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal. They view the deal—also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—as a success for non-proliferation and international security. In contrast, the current US Government has criticised the deal for failing to address non-nuclear issues, notably Iran’s continuing ballistic missile development, which the USA has long viewed as both a regional and a global threat.

Iran’s missile programme was also one of the main justifications for President Trump’s recent refusal to certify that continuing the suspension of sanctions—a key US commitment under the agreement—is proportionate to Iran’s respective commitments under the JCPOA. As a result, continued US adherence to the deal now depends on the US Congress.

However, while defending the JCPOA, the major European powers have joined the Trump administration in squarely condemning Iran’s missile tests and satellite launches. This commonality of views was highlighted in a joint statement on 13 October 2017 by the United Kingdom, France and Germany, which said that ‘as we work to preserve the JCPOA, we share concerns about Iran’s ballistic missile programme and regional activities [and] . . . stand ready to take further appropriate measures to address these issues’.

The Trump administration expects European countries to take a harder line on this issue. As part of an attempt to address the JCPOA’s ‘many serious flaws’, the US President has urged ‘allies to join us in . . . through sanctions outside the Iran Deal that target the regime’s ballistic missile program’.

Given the transatlantic disagreement over the JCPOA, European countries might feel increasing pressure to focus on Iran’s ballistic missile activities in order to find common ground with the USA. But is the Western perspective on Iran’s missile programme based on an objective threat assessment, and is a punitive approach helpful in addressing it?

Read the full report at Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.