Letter from Sens Kirk and Ayotte to President Obama
Regarding Iran Ballistic Missile Test
October 14, 2015
WASHINGTON – In a letter
to President Obama, U.S. Senators Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Kelly
Ayotte (R-N.H.) on Wednesday asked for confirmation from the administration
regarding whether Iran’s ballistic missile test this weekend violated a UN
Security Council ban and what the administration’s response would be to such a
Kirk joined Senator Ayotte to underscore their concern that the test is the
latest example of Iran’s continued willingness to ignore its international
obligations – a troubling indicator in light of the recently finalized nuclear
agreement. The senators, along with a group of colleagues, wrote to
the president in July 2014 and urged the administration to address Iran’s
development of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) during negotiations
on Iran’s nuclear program. Unfortunately, the final agreement ultimately lifts
the restrictions on Iran ballistic missile development within a few years.
you know, Tehran reportedly conducted a long-range ballistic missile test this
weekend. This test furthers Iran’s intercontinental ballistic missile
(ICBM) program and heightens risks to Israel and the United States,” the
Senators wrote. “White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest admitted
yesterday that there are ‘strong indications that those missile tests did
violate a U.N. Security Council resolution (UNSCR) that pertain to Iran’s
ballistic missile activities.’ Ambassador Samantha Power echoed that
conclusion today saying that ‘…all the indicators are that it would be a
violation.’ We are interested to know how your administration will
respond. We worry that tough statements followed by inaction will further
undermine U.S. national security.”
full text of the letter is below:
October 14, 2015
The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500
As you know, Tehran reportedly conducted a long-range ballistic
missile test this weekend. This test furthers Iran’s intercontinental
ballistic missile (ICBM) program and heightens risks to Israel and the United
States. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest admitted yesterday that
there are “strong indications that those missile tests did violate a U.N.
Security Council resolution (UNSCR) that pertain to Iran’s ballistic missile
activities.” Ambassador Samantha Power echoed that conclusion today
saying that “…all the indicators are that it would be a violation.”
We are interested to know how your administration will respond. We worry
that tough statements followed by inaction will further undermine U.S. national
This ballistic missile test is troubling for three primary reasons.
First, this test furthers Iran’s ICBM program. An ICBM is not tangential
or unrelated to Iran's nuclear program. The sole purpose of an Iranian
ICBM is to enable delivery of a nuclear weapon to the United States. In
fact, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified in February that
“Tehran would choose ballistic missiles as its preferred method of delivering
nuclear weapons…” Reinforcing this point, Secretary of Defense Ashton
Carter testified in a July 7 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing “...the
reason that we want to stop Iran from having an ICBM program is that the I in
ICBM stands for intercontinental, which means having the capability to fly from
Iran to the United States, and we don't want that. That's why we oppose
Second, this long-range ballistic missile that Iran tested last
weekend likely improves Tehran’s ability to target Israel—our closest and
most reliable ally in the Middle East. A threat combines hostile intent
and capability. Time and again, Iran’s leaders have made clear their
hostile intent with respect to Israel. As recently as last month, Iran’s
Supreme Leader said Israel “will not see [the end] of these 25 years.”
This recent ballistic missile test increases Tehran’s ability to wipe Israel
off the map.
Some in the United States and Europe dismiss these statements by
Iranian leaders as overblown rhetoric not to be taken seriously. It is
unwise to not take Iranian leaders at their word. On August 21, 2015,
Commander of the Aerospace Division of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard
Corps Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh said, “Some wrongly think Iran has
suspended its ballistic missile programs in the last two years and has made a
deal on its missile program...We will have a new ballistic missile test in the
near future that will be a thorn in the eyes of our enemies.” Less than
two months later, with this test last weekend, Tehran made good on this promise.
Tehran has been consistent in flouting its obligations under international law
and undermining U.S. and Israeli national security interests. In light of
this track record and the grave implications of a nuclear attack, the burden of
proof is on those who believe Tehran is bluffing with respect to Israel—not
those who predict that Tehran will do what it says.
Third, despite the recently finalized Joint Comprehensive Plan of
Action (JCPOA), this latest violation of international law demonstrates
Tehran’s continued willingness to ignore its obligations. As White House
Press Secretary Josh Earnest said yesterday, “We have seen Iran…almost
serially violate the international community’s concerns about their ballistic
missile program.” We could not agree more.
Unfortunately, Mr. Earnest again reiterated the administration’s
flawed argument that Iran’s ballistic missile program should be considered
separately from Iran’s nuclear program. As the testimony of your
Secretary of Defense, Director of National Intelligence, and former Chairman of
the Joint Chiefs of Staff suggests, an Iran with an ICBM capability is a serious
national security concern because a ballistic missile is Iran’s most likely
means of delivering a nuclear weapon.
That is why, on July 15, 2014, we signed a 28-member letter to you
urging your administration to “not conclude a nuclear accord with Tehran
without addressing the threat that Iranian ballistic missiles could pose to our
nation.” Unfortunately, rather than addressing Iran’s ballistic
missile program—which Tehran continued throughout negotiations—the nuclear
deal with Iran does the opposite and makes it easier for Iran to develop
Not only does this decision to reduce pressure on Iran’s missile
program ignore our request, it also contradicts the military advice of
then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey. On
July 7, 2015, General Dempsey testified in a Senate Armed Services Committee
hearing that “Under no circumstances should we relieve pressure on Iran
relative to ballistic missile capabilities…” On July 29, General
Dempsey confirmed that it was his military recommendation, as your top military
advisor, that the United States not agree to lifting the ballistic missile
restrictions on Iran. Unfortunately, that is exactly what the Iran deal
In light of these developments, we request answers to the following
1) Does your administration believe
Iran’s ballistic missile test violates UNSCR 1929?
2) If this test violates UNSCR 1929,
doesn’t that trigger U.S. and U.N. sanctions on Iran? Do you commit to not
waiving sanctions on any Iranian entity associated with UNSCR 1929?
3) Today, Ambassador Power said:
“One of the really important features in implementation of the recent Iran
deal to dismantle Iran’s nuclear program is going to have to be enforcement of
the resolutions and the standards that remain on the books…I think we have to
walk and chew gum at the same time.” In light of this comment, what
specific steps does your administration plan to take in order to respond to
Iran’s ballistic missile tests?
4) Given the testimony of senior
administration officials, combined with the fact that UNSCR 1929 focuses on the
ability of ballistic missiles to deliver nuclear weapons, why does your
administration continue to treat Iran’s ballistic missile program as an issue
that is tangential—rather than central—to Iran’s nuclear program?
5) In light of your statement on
August 5, 2015, that “we need to check the [Iranian] behavior that we are
concerned about directly, by helping our allies in the region strengthen their
own capabilities to counter… a ballistic missile,” what specific additional
steps does your administration plan to take to improve further Israel’s
ability to defend against Iranian ballistic missiles?
6) What specific steps does your
administration plan to take to better protect U.S. military personnel in the
region from a ballistic missile attack?
7) What specific steps does your
administration plan to take to improve our nation’s ballistic missile defense
against a potential ICBM launched from Iran?
Thank you for your attention to this very serious issue.