The commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.) Aerospace Force today revealed that the country has recently built a third underground ballistic missile production factory, the Iranian media reported. “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 Iranian city of Dezfoul. He added that the I.R.G.C. has built and runs the underground factory and claimed that it is working on building its first ground-to-ground ballistic missile called “Dezfoul” in the near future.

Hajizadeh also criticized the latest the U.S. arms deal with Saudi Arabia. “We will not forget that Daesh [Islamic State] and Takfiri [terrorist] groups are a creation of American policies in the region. Soon, the expensive military equipment that Saudi Arabia bought from America will be used against Saudi Arabia,” he warned. The I.R.G.C. commander reiterated that Iran will not halt its missile activity under pressure and will follow Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s instructions to achieve the “goals of the revolution and Islam inside and outside the country.”

Comment: The latest I.R.G.C. announcement on new missile production factory may further strain ties between Washington and Tehran. The Trump administration has already imposed new sanctions against Iran’s missile program and has warned Tehran of more punitive actions if it presses ahead with producing and testing more advanced ballistic missiles.

But the response from Tehran has so far been one of defiance. There is a consensus among political and military leaders in Tehran to continue and further advance Iran’s missile technology at any cost. At the first press conference since winning reelection, President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday that the Islamic Republic would continue its ballistic missile program despite Washington’s concerns. “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,” he said defiantly after U.S. and Saudi leaders criticized Tehran’s regional policies at the Riyadh summit.

Earlier this month, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei also stressed that his country will 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,” he emphasized.

The difference between the Rouhani government and the military establishment regarding the missile program is more of style than substance. Rouhani backs the military’s missile work, and he said last month that the Iranian government would seek no one's permission to build missiles and upgrade the country’s defense capabilities. Rouhani’s defense minister, Hossein Dehghan, also revealed earlier this month that the budget to upgrade the country’s defense capabilities under Rouhani’s watch has increased 2.5 percent compared to the previous administration. He also claimed that Iran’s arms production capacity has seen a staggering 100-fold increase in the past four years. But Rouhani urges the I.R.G.C. to refrain from provocative actions – such as threats against the existence of Israel – that may increase international pressure on Tehran.

While the nuclear agreement does not address Iran’s missile program, a 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.

Irran’s Sunni Gulf neighbors and Israel also repeatedly raise concern about Iran’s ballistic missile program and see it as a threat to regional security and stability.