A senior Iranian official has said that Tehran will continue to further enhance its missile program despite U.S. warnings, the Iranian media reported. “Iran’s missile power is progressing and increasing on a daily basis in terms of the precision-power and standards that we expect in a missile,” Mohsen Rezaei, the secretary of Iran’s Expedience Council, said on Monday. “Iran does not seek anyone’s permission and will never halt its military progress,” the former chief commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.) added. “We do not fear any threats,” he emphasized. In a similar remark on Sunday, Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (S.N.S.C.), claimed that the country has enhanced its deterrence and defense power by developing advanced missiles. "Iran's indigenized missile power has been developing for years based on the country's need to create a deterrence power," Shamkhani told reporters in the Northeastern city of Mashhad. "Today, it (the missile program) is considered as one of the pillars of the Islamic Republic of Iran's power."
Comment: Iran’s missile activity has been a constant source of tension between Washington and Tehran in recent years. Although the Trump administration has warned Iran to halt its ballistic missile activity and has imposed new sanctions on the country’s entities associated with the program, Tehran has only accelerated its drive to upgrade its missile capabilities. In response to the latest U.S. Senate legislation to impose additional sanctions on Iran, the Iranian parliament is finalizing its own bill to increase the budget for the I.R.G.C. to further develop the missile program and fund its elite Quds Force’s activities in regional conflicts.
While the government of President Hassan Rouhani has differences with I.R.G.C. leaders about engagement with the West and domestic politics, they all agree that the country should defy the U.S. pressure and continue with its controversial missile program. “American authorities should know that whenever we need to test a missile for technical reasons, we will carry it out. And we will not wait for them or their permission,” Rouhani said at the first press conference after winning reelection in May. And when the I.R.G.C. last month launched missiles against Islamic State positions in Syria in retaliation for the June 7 Tehran attacks, Rouhani hailed the I.R.G.C.'s move. “I’d like to thank the ones that manufacture strategic arms for the country and the ones that employ such strategic weapons very well,” he stressed.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has also emphasized that his country would further enhance its missile power “We have missiles and they are very precise. They can hit targets with precision from thousands of kilometers away. We will forcefully preserve and enhance this capability.”
Moreover, last month, the Iranian military announced that it had recently built a third underground ballistic missile production factory. “We will increase our missile power. Our enemies, the United States and the Zionist regime (Israel) are naturally upset and get angry at our missile production, tests and underground missile facilities because they want Iran to be in a weak position," Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh told a public gathering in the southwestern Iran.
While the nuclear agreement does not address Iran’s missile program, the subsequent U.N. 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 U.S. 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 U.N. resolution.
During his reelection campaign, Rouhani pledged to engage with the United States and European countries to remove the remaining sanctions that continue to hinder economic growth and foreign investment in Iran. But as the president is encouraging the I.R.G.C. to continue its missile activities, he will certainly not be able to fulfill that campaign promise as most of existing U.S. unilateral sanctions against Iran are related to the country’s missile program and support for terrorism.