Iran

Cluster Munition Ban Policy

Last updated: 13 September 2021

Summary

Non-signatory Iran acknowledges the humanitarian concerns raised by cluster munitions, but has not taken any steps to accede to the convention due to various long-held objections. Iran participated in a meeting of the convention once, in 2011. It abstained from voting on a key United Nations (UN) resolution promoting the convention in December 2020.

Iran is not known to have used cluster munitions, but it has imported them and may have also produced them. Iran likely stockpiled cluster munitions, but it has not shared information on the types and quantities in its possession.

Policy

The Islamic Republic of Iran has not acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Iran has acknowledged the humanitarian concerns raised by cluster munitions, but has not taken any steps to accede to the convention due to various long-standing objections.[1] In November 2020, Iran stated it “cannot support an instrument negotiated outside the United Nations that disregards the security concerns and interests of many states.”[2] In Iran’s view, to be “effective” a convention to regulate cluster munitions must include “the major producers and former users of these munitions.”[3] Iran has also objected to certain provisions of the convention, such as Article 21 on joint military operations with states not party.[4]

Iran did not participate in the Oslo Process that created the convention.

Iran attended the convention’s Second Meeting of States Parties in Beirut, Lebanon in September 2011 as an observer.[5] This remains its only participation in a meeting of the convention. Iran was invited to, but did not attend, the first segment of the convention’s Second Review Conference held virtually in November 2020.

In December 2020, Iran abstained from the vote on a UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution, which urges states outside the convention to “join as soon as possible.”[6] Iran has abstained from voting on the annual UNGA resolution since it was first introduced in 2015.[7]

Iran is not party to the Mine Ban Treaty nor the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW).

Use

Iran is not known to have used cluster munitions.

Cluster munitions were used in Iran during the Iran-Iraq War in 1980–1988.[8] According to one source, during the war Iraq used air-dropped cluster bombs in 1984 against Iranian troops.[9] A United States (US) Navy aircraft used 18 Mk-20 Rockeye bombs in attacks on Iranian Revolutionary Guard speedboats and an Iranian Navy ship on 18 April 1988.[10]

Production

There is evidence that Iran may produce cluster munitions.

Several western media outlets have claimed that Iran’s domestically produced rockets and missiles may include a submunition variant, such as the Zolfaghar short-range ballistic missile.[11] Iran has reportedly displayed “a variant of the Fateh missile with 30 submunitions, each weighing approximately 20 pounds” while “other Iranian missiles known to be equipped with submunitions include the long-range Ghadr and the medium-range Qiam.”[12] Iran produces various types of unguided 122mm, 240mm, and 333mm rockets, but it is not known if these include submunition payloads.[13]

Transfer and stockpiling

Iran has imported cluster munitions and likely has a stockpile, but has never shared information on the types and quantities possessed. Jane’s Information Group lists Iran as possessing KMGU dispensers that deploy submunitions, PROSAB-250 cluster bombs, and United Kingdom (UK)-made BL755 cluster bombs.[14] Additionally, Iran possesses Grad 122mm surface-to-surface rockets.[15]



[1] In 2012, Iran said that its experience of being contaminated by cluster munition remnants means it “shares the humanitarian aspects” of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. It stated that “we ourselves are faced with a huge problem of contaminated lands due to the leftover mines and cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war already used by Saddam’s army.” Statement of Iran, UN General Assembly (UNGA) First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, New York, 1 November 2012.

[2] Explanation of Vote by Iran, UN General Assembly (UNGA) First Committee, video record, 6 November 2020, 2:42:20. See also, Explanation of vote on draft Resolution A/C.1/L.46, “Implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” UN General Assembly First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, New York, 5 November 2019; and Explanation of Vote by Iran, UNGA First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, New York, 31 October 2017, pp. 20–29.

[3] Statement by Gholamhossein Dehghani, Director-General for Political International Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Convention on Cluster Munitions Second Meeting of States Parties, Beirut, 13 September 2011.

[4] Interview with Reza Najafi, Director for Disarmament and International Security, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran, in New York, 23 October 2012.

[5] Later, in 2012, it acknowledged this was its first participation in a meeting of the convention and described its presence as an indication of support for Lebanon, as “the main victims of cluster bombs used by Zionist regime” in 2006. Statement of Iran, UNGA First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, New York, 1 November 2012.

[6]Implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions”, UNGA Resolution 75/62, 7 December 2020.

[7] Explanation of Vote by Iran, UNGA First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, New York, 31 October 2017, pp. 20–29.

[8] Statement by Gholamhossein Dehghani, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Convention on Cluster Munitions Second Meeting of States Parties, Beirut, 13 September 2011.

[9] Anthony H. Cordesman and Abraham R. Wagner, Lessons of Modern War Volume II: The Iran-Iraq War (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1990), p. 210. The bombs were reportedly produced by Chile.

[10] Memorandum from the Commanding Officer of the USS Enterprise (CVN-65) to the Director of Naval History (OP-09BH), “1988 Command History,” 27 February 1989, p. 20.

[11]Iran shows Off its Missiles in Display of Strength,” Sky News, 21 September 2016.

[12] Shahryar Pasandideh, “Iran’s Missile Forces Are Increasing in Range, Accuracy and Lethality,” World Politics Review, 14 October 2015.

[13] International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2011 (London: Routledge, 2011), p. 309; and Colin King, ed., Jane’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal 2007–2008, CD-edition, 15 January 2008 (Surrey, UK: Jane’s Information Group Limited, 2008).

[14] Robert Hewson, ed., Jane’s Air-Launched Weapons, Issue 44 (Surrey, UK: Jane’s Information Group Limited, 2004), p. 840.

[15] International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2011 (London: Routledge, 2011), p. 309; and Colin King, ed., Jane’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal 2007–2008, CD-edition, 15 January 2008 (Surrey, UK: Jane’s Information Group Limited, 2008).