A senior Iranian military official said today that Tehran would not negotiate over its missile program with Western powers, Iran’s Mehr News Agency reported. Brigadier General Farzad Esmayeeli, the chief commander of Khatam al-Anbia Air Defense Base, described the country’s controversial missile program as a “red line” and emphasized that no proposals for talks over the issue was acceptable. "The enemies are looking to harm our revolution revolution and nation. Therefore, negotiating on our defense capabilities and missiles will in no way make any sense," he cautioned in the interview with Mehr. “The defense power is the prestige of the Iranian nation… Our enemies, God willing, will take the dream of negotiating over our country’s defense to their graves. There will be no talks,” the commander added, indicating that Tehran will defy Western pressure and continue with its missile program.  

Comment: In January, President Donald Trump reluctantly waived nuclear-related sanctions, but emphasized that it was “the last chance” for US Congress and European powers to come up with an agreement to crack down on Iran’s ballistic missile program and strengthen other provisions of the deal. While European countries strongly support the Iran deal and want to keep and implement it, they share Washington’s concerns about Iran’s missile activities and destabilizing role in the region. Some European leaders have called for separate agreements with Iran on the missile dispute to supplement the Iran deal. However, Tehran has consistently rejected any talks with Western powers over the missile issue. 

Indeed, since signing the nuclear accord in July 2015, Iran has increased the production of its ballistic missiles and has test-fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles. On March 7, a senior commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps said that Iran has increased its missile and defense-related production three-fold despite mounting pressure by the United States and its allies, Tasnim News Agency reported. “The enemy’s actions and confrontation with us as well as their efforts to limit our defense power have backfired. In the past, we needed to convince the parliament and the government in this regard, but now all government officials are actively working on this and our production has increased three-fold compared to the past,” Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the chief commander of the IRGC Aerospace Force, told a conference on the significance of fighting for the Islamic revolution.

There is a general consensus among all Iranian leaders that the Islamic Republic should defy Western pressure and further enhance its missile program. According to Iranian military officials, the country has also increased the range, precision and longevity of its ballistic missiles. In addition to missiles, Iran’s arms production capacity has seen a staggering 100-fold increase in the past five years. 

On May 12, Trump will face another deadline to decide on sanctions waiver for Iran. If he refuses to continue the sanctions waiver, the United States will effectively withdraw from the nuclear deal.


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