Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei today sharply criticized the latest U.S. sanctions and vowed that the Islamic Republic will defy international pressure and continue its missile program. "We send orbital launch vehicles to the space, but suddenly we see that they've created uproar over it, throughout the world, while this is merely a scientific and technical activity,” he said at ceremony in which he officially validated President Hassan Rouhani's reelection. "They imposed sanctions on us: these sanctions have, of course, created some problems for the country, but they have also opened our eyes towards our own resources; we had many capacities which we were not aware of. Today, despite the desires of the enemy, we are strong, and we know the ways to confront the enemy,” he continued. The supreme leader emphasized that the Islamic Republic will respond to U.S. measures more forcefully and will continue to upgrade its military power. He further urged the Rouhani administration and the country’s military forces to “confront every hegemony with complete decisiveness and power” and added that “today, the United States of America is further transgressing and more shameless than anything."

He claimed that the Islamic Republic has learned from lessons of the past four decade that “the price of giving into the aggressive power is much more than the price of resisting them.” And continued: “Surrendering to these bullish powers will ruin nations and countries; it blocks paths that lead to their progress."

Khamenei had previously said that “we will forcefully preserve and enhance this [missile] capability.”

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 missile program 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.

Last week, Iran launched its most advanced satellite-carrying rocket into the orbit, a move condemned by the United States, France, Germany and Britain, all signatories of the Iran nuclear deal. The described Iran’s launch as “inconsistent” with a U.N. Security Council resolution that endorsed the nuclear accord.

While Iranian hardliners and reformists differ on many domestic and foreign policy issues, they are largely united in supporting the country’s missile program at any cost. At the first press conference since winning reelection, Rouhani said 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.

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.

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