Iran is continuing to develop missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons despite an interim agreement on its nuclear programs, according to a Pentagon report.
“Although Iran has paused progress in some areas of its nuclear program and fulfilled its obligations under the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA), it continues to develop technological capabilities that also could be applicable to nuclear weapons, including ballistic missile development,” a one-page unclassified summary of the report says.
A copy of the report was obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
The report was due to Congress in January but was not sent to the Armed Services Committee as required by law until this month. Analysts said the delay appeared designed to avoid upsetting Tehran and the nuclear talks.
Disclosure of the continuing development of nuclear delivery capabilities comes amid reports that Iran increased the amount of nuclear material that could potentially be used to build nuclear weapons despite the JPOA.
The State Department sought to challenge International Atomic Energy Agency reports on the increase in Iranian nuclear material, despite President Obama’s claim that the nuclear agreement had halted Iran’s nuclear program.
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said this week that the increase in nuclear production was expected and that the amount has increased and decreased.
Iran’s military also continues to threaten the strategic Strait of Hormuz, the Pentagon report said.
“Iran continues to develop its capabilities to control the Strait of Hormuz and avenues of approach in the event of a military conflict,” the report said, adding that Tehran is “quietly fielding increasingly lethal weapon systems, including more advanced naval mines, small but capable submarines, armed unmanned aerial vehicles, coastal defense cruise missile batteries, attack craft, and ant ship-capable missiles.”
U.S. officials said Iranian backing for Houthi rebels in Yemen is also aimed at gaining access to the strategic Red Sea strait called the Bab-el-Mandeb, which, like the Strait of Hormuz, could be used by Iran to disrupt oil and other shipping.
Tehran’s support for terrorism also has not stopped, according to the Pentagon.
“Iran’s covert activities appear to be continuing unabated,” the report says. “The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) remains a key tool of lran's foreign policy and power projection, particularly in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain, and Yemen.”
The IRGC Quds Force also is continuing to improve its access within foreign countries and its ability to carry terrorist attacks “to safeguard or advance Iran's interests,” the report said.
U.S. officials disclosed to the Free Beacon last week that Iran is increasing the number of Quds Force fighters and Lebanese Hezbollah militants it is sending to Yemen, to support pro-Iran Houthi rebels there.
The report asserts that Iran’s military doctrine is “primarily defensive” and seeks to insulate Iran from more aggressive Iranian policies involving covert action and terrorism.
Iranian military forces seek to deter attacks, survive initial strikes, and retaliate against aggressors.
“The ongoing civil war in Syria and the instability in Iraq have tested, but not fundamentally altered, this posture,” the report said. “Meanwhile, over the past year, the tone of publicity surrounding major military exercises has remained tempered, a trend that began in 2013, probably in support of negotiations over Iran's nuclear activities.”
Iranian forces have been working with Iraq’s government to battle Islamic State forces that have taken over large portions of that Middle East state. They have included IRGC fighters.
The report, dated January 2015, concludes that Iran has not substantively altered its military and security strategies in the past year.
“However, Tehran has adjusted its approach to achieve its enduring objectives, by increasing its diplomatic outreach and decreasing its bellicose rhetoric,” the report said.
President Hassan Ruohani has sought to project a global message of “moderation and pragmatism” in support of those objectives.
Also, Iran is seeking to become the dominant regional power and in pursuit of that aim has “unwaveringly sought to improve its deterrent capabilities and increase its regional influence.”
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who is thought to be ill, “remains atop Iran's power structure as both the political-spiritual guide and the commander in chief of the armed forces.”
The Senate Armed Services Committee, in its report on the fiscal 2016 defense authorization bill passed May 19, expressed concerns about the annual report on Iran’s military.
The report was due to Congress on Jan. 30 but said as of May it had not been provided.
“The committee remains concerned about the threat posed by Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile development programs,” the report said.
Last year Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified that Iran “would choose a ballistic missile as its preferred method of delivering nuclear weapons.” And in February, Iran launched a Safir long-range missile system.
“In 2013, the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) made the following statement about this system: Iran could develop and test an ICBM capable of reaching the United States by 2015,” the report said.
“Since 2008, Iran has conducted multiple successful launches of the two-stage Safir space launch vehicle (SLV) and has also revealed the larger two stage Simorgh SLV, which could serve as a test bed for developing ICBM technologies.”
The committee asked the secretary of defense to provide an update on Iran’s ballistic missile programs.
As a result of the delay in the annual Iran military power report, the committee directed the Pentagon to provide a briefing on the Iranian missile threat, and to update the January report.
Ilan Berman, an Iran specialist with the American Foreign Policy Council, said the release of the report is good news but “has long been conspicuous by its absence.”
“The study is long overdue, and its delay suggests that the administration has been leery of injecting inconvenient facts into the Iran debate as it closes in on a nuclear deal with the regime in Tehran,” Berman said.
“The findings of the report confirm that Iran’s destructive regional activities have not abated over the past year,” he added.
“If anything, they have increased despite Iran’s dialogue with the West,” Berman said. “The product can be seen in the battlefield victories of Yemen’s Iran-supported Houthi rebels, of the persistence of the Assad regime in Syria, and of the growing profile and capabilities of Iraq’s Shi’a militias.”
“Iran’s activities represent a significant challenge to peace and security in the Middle East,” he said.
“The real question is what, if anything, the White House is prepared to do about it?” he said.
Mark Dubowitz, another Iran expert, said Tehran is continuing to develop long-range ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, in violation of U.N. Security Council limits.
“The Obama administration ceded to Iranian demands that their missile program was non-negotiable and, instead, has tried to reassure Congress that this missile threat can be mitigated by constraining Iran's ability to develop a nuclear warhead,” said Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
“This major administration concession to Iran will greatly complicate the U.S. intelligence community’s ability to detect whether Iran has develop a nuclear warhead-carrying ICBM capable of reaching the continental United States,” he added. “By its very nature, it is much more difficult to detect and prevent warhead development, which can take place in small, covert facilities, than it is to determine the nature and extent of a hostile missile program. In yet another example of how deeply flawed the emerging Iran deal will be, Tehran will have a much easier pathway to develop systems.”