By Lucas Tomlinson, Fox News
Friday, 15 July 2016
Two days before the anniversary of the nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers, the Islamic Republic attempted to launch a new type of ballistic missile using North Korean technology, multiple intelligence officials tell Fox News.
The test, in violation of a UN resolution, failed shortly after liftoff when the missile exploded, sources said. The effort occurred on the evening of July 11-12 near the Iranian city of Saman, an hour west of Isfahan, where Iran has conducted similar ballistic missile tests in the past.
It would be at least the fourth time Iran has launched or attempted to launch a ballistic missile since the nuclear accord was signed on July 14, 2015.
Iran is barred from conducting ballistic missile tests for eight years under UN Resolution 2231, which went effect July 20, 2015, days after the nuclear accord was signed.
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.
The landmark nuclear deal between Iran and world powers does not include provisions preventing Iran from conducting ballistic missile tests.
Iran claims its ballistic missile tests are legitimate because they are not designed to carry a nuclear warhead.
The most recent test was the first time Iran attempted to launch a version of the North Korean BM-25 Musudan ballistic missile, which has a maximum range of nearly 2,500 miles, putting U.S. forces in the Middle East and Israel within reach.
The extent of North Korea’s involvement in the failed launch is not immediately clear, apart from North Korea sharing their technology, according to officials.
North Korea has had its own difficulties launching the Musudan missile of late.
Since April, North Korea has failed five consecutive times in launching one. But late last month, North Korea succeeded in putting into space a Musudan, which later splashed down 250 miles from North Korea into the Sea of Japan.
The U.S. military recently announced, over Chinese objections, that it would deploy an advanced anti-ballistic missile system known as THAAD into South Korea as a result of the gains in North Korean missile technology.
There was no immediate reaction from U.S. Central Command when asked for comment about the failed Iranian missile launch.
In an interview with Fox News in Baghdad Thursday, the head of Central Command, responsible for military operations in the Middle East, said Iran continues to cause trouble in the region.
“Iran’s behavior hasn’t significantly changed as a result of the nuclear agreement,” said Gen. Joseph Votel. “They continue to pursue malign activities, and they continue to foment instability in areas where we need stability so I remain concerned about that continued behavior.”
Reuters reported last week that a confidential report by UN chief Ban Ki-moon called Iran’s ballistic missile program "not consistent with the constructive spirit" of the nuclear deal, but left it up to the UN Security Council to decide if Iran is in violation of UN resolution 2231. Russia and China are permanent members of the five-nation UN Security Council, and both have expressed reservations in the past about punishing Iran about its missile tests.
The Security Council is due to discuss the UN chief’s report on July 18.
Russia shipped components of an advanced third-generation air defense system to Iran earlier this year, drawing outrage from lawmakers on Capitol Hill. While the State Department is “opposed” to the deal, it does not violate either the nuclear agreement nor UN resolution 2231, according to a spokesperson.
In March, Iran sparked international condemnation when it test-fired two ballistic missiles, one emblazoned with the phrase “Israel must be wiped out” in Hebrew.
Iran conducted separate ballistic missile tests in October and November.
In March, appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Votel was asked about Iran’s ballistic missile capabilities. He testified that Iran “may in fact be more aggressive in the days since the [nuclear] agreement.”
Votel told lawmakers the United States should continue to “expose” Iran for the role they play in the region, including its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, responsible for dropping barrel bombs on his own people, according to Votel.
He told Fox News aboard USS New Orleans, a 684-foot warship loaded with 650 Marines transiting the Strait of Hormuz this week that Iran should be “held accountable” for capturing 10 US Navy sailors in January at gunpoint and holding them for a day.
An Iranian missile boat and four other armed small boats shadowed New Orleans just miles from Iranian shores as she made her way though the strait, coming within 500 yards of the U.S. Navy warship. Such action by Iran has become routine, according to Navy officials.
Since December, Iran has shipped out its low-enriched uranium, disabled its heavy water reactor in Arak, and sold more than $8 million worth of heavy water to the U.S. government in compliance with the nuclear deal.
In January, the UN’s nuclear watchdog declared that Iran had met its provisions in the nuclear deal, which ended many Western economic sanctions unlocking billions of dollars in sanctions relief.
In recent days, Iranian officials have voiced plans to conduct more tests.
“Iran will strongly continue its missile program based on its own defense and national security calculations,” foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said on the ministry’s website.