Columns

Iran Orders 'Speedy,' 'Serious' Missile Production in Response to 'Cruel' U.S. Sanctions

Iran President Hassan Rouhani, left, briefs the media as Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan listens after unveiling the surface-to-surface Fateh-313, or Conqueror, missile on Aug. 22, 2015. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

Iran’s president ordered his defense department to step up the Islamic Republic’s ballistic missile program in response to a report this week that the Treasury Department is preparing sanctions in response to two illegal missile tests.

Nearly two dozen Senate Democrats have heaped pressure on the Obama administration during the month of December to do something in response to the October and November launches, which run afoul of UN Security Council Resolution 1929.

“If there are no consequences for this violation, Iran’s leaders will certainly also question the willingness of the international community to respond to violations of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and UN Security Council Resolution 2231,” 21 Senate Dems — including two opponents of the Iran deal, Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) — recently wrote to President Obama.

Another staunch foe of the nuke deal, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), sent a separate letter to Obama recommending that he use his discretionary authority to adopt specific measures outside of the P5+1 deal “such as special designations of foreign nationals, including freezing assets and banning travel for individuals and entities that support or facilitate Iran’s ballistic missile proliferation.”

“How you respond to this challenge will send a message to the Iranian regime about its compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA),” Menendez wrote. “In the meantime, we can expect that Iran will continue to test the limits of international order.”

The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that Treasury is planning to sanction about a dozen entities in Iran, the United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong for having a role in Iran’s missile program.

Today, Iran President Hassan Rouhani ordered the country’s defense ministry to step up the missile program in response to “cruel” U.S. sanctions.

“As the United States seems to plan to include the names of new individuals and firms in its previous list of cruel sanctions in line with its hostile policies and illegitimate and illegal meddling in the Islamic Republic of Iran’s right to reinvigorate its defense power, the program for the production of the Armed Forces’ needed missiles is required to continue more speedily and seriously,” said Rouhani’s decree, according to the semi-official Fars News Agency.

“In case such wrong and interventionist measures are repeated by the United States, the Defense Ministry will be duty-bound to make use of all possibilities to bring up new planning to develop the country’s missile capability,” he said.

Rouhani claimed the move is to “safeguard the country’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity and to combat the evil phenomenon of terrorism and extremism in line with common regional and global interests.”

He also said Iran stressed throughout the P5+1 nuclear negotiations that it would “never negotiate with anyone about its defense power, including the missile program, and would never accept any restriction in this field, emphasizing its entitlement to the legitimate right of defense.”

“It is crystal-clear that Iran’s missile program is not at all a part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – also known as the nuclear deal – and this is acknowledged by the US officials as well,” Rouhani’s decree said. “As repeatedly stated, nuclear weapons have no room in Iran’s defense doctrine, and therefore, the development and production of Iran’s ballistic missiles, which have never been designed to carry nuclear warheads, will continue powerfully and firmly as a crucial and conventional tool for defending the country.”

Rouhani drove his points home by tweeting some of his comments in English, including the warning about developing a broader, more advanced program: “If US continues its illegitimate interference w/ Iran’s right to defend itself a new program will be devised to enhance missile capabilities.”

Rouhani directed his order to Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehghan, who warned last week that Iran has “not halted designing, producing and testing our missiles, (on the contrary) we have even increased our production.”