A senior aide to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said that the Islamic Republic will not accept any European or American proposals to curb the country’s controversial missile program, Tasnim News Agency reported. “The Americans wanted to degrade our missile power so that Israel can feel safe. We say it clearly that we, as instructed by Quran, will produce as many missiles as we want and will increase its range as well as part of our deterrence policy. And we will not negotiate with anyone in this regard. We will not allow any country to speak nonsense. The French foreign minister and others who want to come to Iran should remove their earplugs,” Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, the interim Friday prayer leader of Tehran told worshippers today. “There is a consensus among all branches of the regime that there will be no more negotiations to supplement the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action also known as the Iran nuclear deal] or a similar action. And this is our final policy. The American should not doubt it,” the hardline cleric added.
Khatami, who is likely to be strong contender to succeed Khamenei as Iran’s supreme leader in the future, also emphasized that Iran will defy US and European pressure and will continue to support regional militant groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah.
Separately, Major General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, the chief of staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, echoed Khatami’s remarks and stressed that Iran will continue to boost its defense capabilities and deterrence power. The Armed Forces will not allow any interference in Iran’s missile power, he emphasized.
Comment: Last month, President Donald Trump said he was extending sanctions waivers for Tehran one last time, and warned that he will terminate the Iran nuclear accord unless Congress and European powers fix the deal’s “terrible flaws” within the next four months. One key demand of the Trump administration is that European countries join hands with Washington to pressure Tehran to limit its ballistic missile activities. Iran has conducted more than a dozen ballistic missile launches since it signed the nuclear agreement with world powers in July 2015.
While the nuclear accord does not address Iran’s missile program, the subsequent UN Security Council Resolution 2231 “calls upon Iran not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.” Iranian leaders argue that the country’s missiles are not designed to carry nuclear warheads, but US officials say some of the missiles Iran has tested after the 2015 nuclear deal have been “inherently capable of delivering nuclear weapons” and are “in defiance of” the UN resolution.
The three European signatories of the Iran deal – Germany, Britain, and France – share Washington’s concern about Iran’s growing ballistic missile capabilities, but they want to address the issue separately without undermining the nuclear deal. French President Emmanuel Macron has said that the Iran deal can be “supplemented” with additional agreements addressing the Islamic Republic’s missile program and malign activities in the region. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is scheduled to visit Tehran on March 5 and he has said that he will discuss the missile issue with the Iranian leaders.
By Ahmad Majidyar | Fellow and Director of IranObserved Project – The Middle East Institute | Feb 2, 2018