State Dept.: Sanctions Alone Not Enough to Stop Iran’s Missile Program

U.S. working to interdict weapons, spotlight Iran's bad behavior

The reactor building at the Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran

The reactor building at the Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran / Getty Images

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Sanctions on Iran are not enough to stop the country's illicit ballistic missile program, according to senior State Department officials, who said on Thursday that a new package of sanctions targeting the Islamic Republic would not halt the country's missile development.

The Trump administration announced earlier this month a large package of sanctions targeting Iran, Syria, and North Korea for their efforts to transfer illicit materials and technology.

The sanctions, which targeted 30 entities in 10 separate countries, target a range of actors found to be complicit in the transfer "of sensitive items to Iran's ballistic missile program," according to the State Department.

The latest sanctions come as Iran continues to provide missile technology and support to terror organizations across the Middle East, including Hezbollah. Iran also continues to trade nuclear and missile technology with North Korea, which was also hit with sanctions under the most recent designations.

Despite the robust package—which targets entities in China, North Korea, the United Arab Emirates, and others—senior State Department officials told the Washington Free Beacon that sanctions alone are not enough to stop Iran's continued production of ballistic missiles, which is banned under international law.

"We got a number of measures, and they're not just sanctions that we engage in to slow down and prevent Iran from advancing its ballistic missile program," a senior State Department official told the Free Beacon during a conference call with reporters.

The official highlighted separate U.S. efforts to interdict shipments of arms and other materials to Iran, as well as efforts in the United Nations meant to spotlight Iran's illicit activities.

Sanctions are "just part of a series of things that we do to counter Iran's ballistic missile program," the official said. "Sanctions alone are important, sanctions shine a public spotlight and limit the activities of the sanctioned entities and also discourage other entities from engaging in those activities."

"We'll admit that alone they are just one tool that is part of a larger tool kit," the official said. "We'll continue to look at other opportunities to sanction where appropriate."

The United States will continue to seek new opportunities to sanction Iran's ballistic missile program, as well as its human rights abuses, according to the State Department.

Iran's missile procurement remains "one of most significant security concerns in the region," according to the senior State Department official, who said the latest sanctions underscore "our commitment to counter these activities."

"We will continue to counter Iran's support for terrorism, its ballistic missile program, and human rights abuses," the official added, noting that the new sanctions "should come as no surprise to Iran."

Iran continues to pose the largest threat to regional stability in the Middle East, according to U.S. official and military personnel.

U.S. Central Command leader Gen. Joseph Votel warned Congress on Wednesday that officials have "not seen any improvement in Iran's behavior" since the nuclear deal was inked. Votel also described Iran as "the most significant threat" to U.S. forces and allies in the region.

Iran's ballistic missile program, which is sophisticated enough to strike multiple U.S. allies, represents the most pressing threat in the region.

"Iran's proliferation of missile technology significantly contributes to regional tensions," the State Department said in a statement announcing the latest sanctions. "As an example, we have seen indications Iran is providing missile support to the Houthis in Yemen. This destabilizing activity only serves to escalate regional conflicts further and poses a significant threat to regional security."

Asked if the United States is considering sanctions on Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, which continues to sponsor terrorist activities in the region, the State Department declined to take a stance.

Adam Kredo   Email Adam | Full Bio | RSS
Adam Kredo is senior writer for the Washington Free Beacon. Formerly an award-winning political reporter for the Washington Jewish Week, where he frequently broke national news, Kredo’s work has been featured in outlets such as the Jerusalem Post, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, and Politico, among others. He lives in Maryland with his comic books. His Twitter handle is @Kredo0. His email address is kredo@freebeacon.com.

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