U.S. officials announced Iran conducted another ballistic missile test in defiance of U.N. sanctions on Sunday, test-firing a Khorramshahr medium-range missile from the test site in Semnan, 140 miles east of Tehran.
The missile flew about 600 miles before exploding, according to Fox News, which quotes the relevant U.N. resolution banning such tests by Iran:
U.N. resolution 2231 — put in place days after the Iran nuclear deal was signed — calls on the Islamic Republic not to conduct such tests. However, this is at least Iran’s second such test since July. The resolution bars Iran from conducting ballistic missile tests for eight years and went into effect July 20, 2015.
Iran is “called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology,” according to the text of the resolution.
Iran, generally with the support of Russia, defends these missile tests by saying they were not outlawed by the nuclear deal and claiming the missiles are not capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
Nevertheless, Iran knows perfectly well that U.N. sanctions unaffected by the nuclear deal prohibit these tests, and they are provocative acts. Fox News theorizes the current test was meant, in part, as a defiant response to President Donald Trump’s diplomatic contacts with Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
Increased development of missiles was part of the expanded military budget approved by the Iranian parliament earlier this month. This expansion of military spending was also seen as a provocative response to the then-incoming Trump administration.
The National Interest analyzed Iran’s pursuit of ballistic missile technology in early January and concluded it was partially driven by lingering memories of the Iran-Iraq War. Iran wants both defenses that cannot be easily compromised by arms embargoes and offensive weapons it can use to threaten and destabilize its neighbors, including the Sunni states led by Saudi Arabia and Israel. Of course, missile technology will also prove useful when Iran is ready to begin producing nuclear weapons in the ten-year window envisioned by the Obama nuclear deal.
A Business Insider analysis also mentioned the psychological value of missiles to Iran — the prestige its government gains, both domestically and internationally, from defying the United States and United Nations and from credibly menacing its neighbors with the possibility of missile strikes.