Vow to Build Up Defense Despite American Threats

Russia says the UN call on Iran to curb ballistic missile tests does not logically correspond to a ban and trying to present this as a ban is a distortion of the truth
Ali Akbar VelayatiAli Akbar Velayati

Tehran will continue to bolster its defense systems, a senior Iranian official said, playing down threatening language from "rookie" US President Donald Trump over its latest missile test.

"These empty threats will not stop us from pursuing the correct path of building strong defense," said Ali Akbar Velayati, a foreign policy advisor to the Leader of Islamic Revolution.

Trump said on Thursday Iran had been put "on notice" for test-firing a ballistic missile that the White House says could be in violation of UN Resolution 2231.  

The resolution was adopted to ratify the July 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.

Later on the same day, responding to a question about whether he would consider military options to respond to Iran, Trump told reporters "nothing is off the table".

"The Islamic Republic of Iran, as the foremost regional power with high capacities, will not bow to pressure and we will not seek permission [from foreigners] to defend ourselves," IRNA quoted Velayati as saying on Thursday. 

Western media reported unnamed US officials as saying on Monday that Iran on Sunday test-launched a ballistic missile from a site near Semnan, east of Tehran. Iranian defense officials later confirmed the test. 

Several UN Security Council resolutions imposing sanctions on Tehran, which prohibited it from test-firing ballistic missiles, were suspended by Resolution 2231. 

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" for up to eight years.

Iran's top diplomat, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said on Tuesday he hopes "the question of Iran's defensive program will not be used for political games by the new US administration ... to provoke new tensions."

Zarif said the resolution refers to "ballistic missiles designed to carry nuclear weapons" and Iran has repeatedly announced that "no Iranian missiles are designed to carry a nuclear warhead" and atomic bombs have basically no place in the Islamic Republic's defense doctrine.

He tweeted on Friday, "Iran is unmoved by threats, as we derive security from our people. We'll never initiate war, but we can only rely on our own means of defense."

Trump, who took office on January 20, adopted fierce anti-Iran rhetoric during the campaign trail and called the nuclear deal "the worst ever negotiated" and said he would "dismantle" it.

Although he seems to have backed off from openly dismantling the deal, reports have surfaced that Trump is intent on intensifying pressure on Iran, in the hope that Tehran will finally pull out of the nuclear deal and shoulder the blame for its collapse. 

Trump had also vowed that he would stop Iran's missile program.

  Final Loser  

Velayati said it is not the first time that an "inexperienced" US official is threatening Tehran, advising the tycoon-turned-politician to use the experiences of previous American leaders.

"Time will teach Trump that mere rhetoric will only discredit him in the eyes of the public. Such behavior will be detrimental to American people and the US national interests. The US will be the final loser," he said.

"[Trump] should ask his predecessors about how Americans failed in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria."

On Thursday, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qasemi lashed out at the US behavior for being "baseless, repetitive and provocative".

"Instead of thanking Iran for its continued fight against terrorism ... the American government is practically helping the terrorists by [such claims]."

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Tuesday that Moscow considered Iran's missile tests to be in line with its commitments. 

"The [UN] resolution only and exclusively calls on Iran to refrain from missile launches … which would allow them the means to deliver a nuclear weapon. This call, as we all understand, does not logically correspond to a ban. It's not the same thing and trying to present this as a ban is a distortion of the truth," he told Interfax.

Reuters reported on Friday that Trump was poised to impose new sanctions on multiple Iranian entities, seeking to ratchet up pressure on Tehran while crafting a broader strategy to counter what he alleges as its destabilizing behavior in the Middle East.

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