The Associated Press is reporting today that Iran’s leadership is stating that they will never abandon their ballistic missile work. The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, is simply repeating in 2017 what Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan said in 2015, what Senior IRGC commander Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh said right after the signing of the Iran Deal, and what President Hassan Rouhani has said consistently. At no point have the Iranians claimed that there was any possibility that they might feel bound by the United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR) governing their development of ballistic missile technology, neither UNSCR 2231 that implements the Iran Deal, nor the earlier UNSCR 1929 that targeted their ballistic missiles specifically.
Why not? Because Iran’s constitution specifically forbids its government from accepting any foreign limits on its military programs. All governments of Iran are bound to reject “all forms of domination,” and to preserve “the independence of the country in all respects.” Iran’s constitution adds that “[a]ny form of agreement resulting in foreign control over the natural resources, economy, army, or culture of the country, as well as other aspects of the national life, is forbidden.”
The UNSCR forbidding Iran from developing its missiles clearly violates this provision, but notice that so would any negotiated agreement that would impose foreign controls on such a program. Not only is Iran bound by its constitution to reject UNSCRs limiting its military, it is forbidden to accept any such limits in any kind of negotiated agreement.
Diplomats of the United States have been going to the United Nations Security Council about Iran for many years, doggedly ignoring the fact that Iran is constitutionally incapable of accepting the UN’s authority over Iranian military programs. Whatever chance there ultimately is of limiting Iran’s missile program, it will not come from the United Nations Security Council. Unless we assume that the Iranians do not take their constitution seriously, it does not seem that it could come from bilateral negotiations either.