Iran’s Defense Minister: U.S. Sanctions Won’t Deter Us from Missile Activity

By Ahmad Majidyar | Fellow and Director of IranObserved Project - The Middle East Institute | May 19, 2017
Iran’s Defense Minister: U.S. Sanctions Won’t Deter Us from Missile Activity

After casting his ballot in the presidential election earlier today, Iran’s defense minister downplayed the impact of new U.S. sanctions on Iran and stressed that the Islamic Republic will defy international pressure and will continue its missile activity. “It is not the first time that Americans show their enmity, malice and hatred toward our revolution, regime and capabilities,” Brigadier General Hossein Dehghan told reporters in Tehran. “They realize that what is important for us is to maintain national security, and to do that, we will acquire any capabilities needed and we are not afraid of anyone in that regard,” he added – emphasizing that foreign “interference” would not weaken Iran’s determination to develop its missile program. Dehghan also praised the high voter turnout as the triumph of “religious democracy” in Iran.

Separately, the Iranian parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission announced that it is mulling retaliatory measures to the latest U.S. sanctions. Hossein Naqavi Hosseini, a member of the commission, also warned that Washington would impose a fresh wave of sanctions against Tehran on “bogus charges” after Iran’s presidential elections.

Comment: The Trump administration imposed a fresh set of sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile program on Wednesday – the same day the administration renewed sanctions relief on Tehran as required by the 2015 nuclear agreement. The move yet again signaled that the Trump administration intends to stick to the Iran deal – at least for now – but is determined to increase pressure on Tehran in other areas, particularly the country’s missile program.

Iran’s controversial missile program has been at the core of heightening tension between Washington and Tehran since President Donald Trump took office four months ago. Both Iranian political and military leaders have made it clear that Tehran would not halt or curtail its missile activities under international pressure. The U.S. Congress has reportedly delayed new sets of sanctions against Iran in order to not interfere with the country's elections.

In a tit-for-tat move yesterday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry announced new sanctions against nine American individuals and entities – mostly arms manufacturers. The ministry also emphasized that Tehran would not halt its missile program under pressure – arguing that the nuclear agreement or the U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231 do not prohibit Iran from missile development activity.

The Iranian designations, however, will have little, if any, impact. American firms that are do not operate inside Iran so there are no risks of their assets being seized by the Iranian government. Moreover, American arms manufactures are already barred from doing business with Iran as part of existing unilateral U.S. sanctions on the Islamic Republic. Thus, the move by the Rouhani government is more a symbolic measure aimed at placating Iranian hardliners. President Hassan Rouhani, who is seeking reelection in today’s vote, has been under fire by his conservative rival Ebrahim Raisi for not standing up to the West.

In a similarly retaliatory action in March, Iran had blacklisted 15 American companies in response to new sanctions by the Trump administration targeting the Iranian missile program. Separately, the chairman of the Iranian Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission had also warned that the Islamic Republic would designate the U.S. Army and the Central Intelligence Agency as terrorist entities if Washington blacklisted the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.).