During a March 2021 appearance before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged not to make any concessions to Iran regarding its missile program while persuading Tehran to return to compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).1 Less than one month later, however, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price refused to rule out missile-sanctions relief as an inducement for the regime to rejoin the deal.2
Offering Iran missile-sanctions relief without first addressing the Islamic Republic’s robust missile program should be alarming to Congress. The JCPOA imposes no limits on Iran’s missile development and proliferation; instead, the deal schedules UN restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missiles to expire in 2023.3 During the years the United States participated in the JCPOA (2015 to 2018), Iran launched at least 27 ballistic missiles as part of tests or military operations.4 Last year, the clerical regime fired ballistic missiles at military bases in Iraq housing American personnel.5 Iran’s terrorist proxies use Iranian-supplied ballistic and cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to target and harass U.S. forces and allies across the Middle East. Between all of this and Tehran’s ambitions to develop longer-range nuclear-capable ballistic missiles that could reach the United States and Europe, lifting sanctions on Iran’s missile program undermines U.S. national security interests.
Congress should send a resolute and bipartisan message to the Biden administration: Regardless of where members stand on the JCPOA, an overwhelming majority of legislators agree that no missile-sanctions relief should be provided to Iran as part of rejoining the agreement. This message would align with Blinken’s testimony and his 2020 campaign commitment to “continue non-nuclear sanctions as a strong hedge against Iranian misbehavior in other areas.”6
This memorandum summarizes the threats posed by Iran’s missile force; reviews the longstanding record of bipartisan support for missile sanctions on the Islamic Republic; and provides a detailed list of U.S. missile sanctions in place as of April 15, 2021.