Iran Defense Boost Signals Resolve to Resist US Pressure

Iran Defense Boost Signals Resolve to Resist US PressureIran Defense Boost Signals Resolve to Resist US Pressure
The Majlis on Sunday approved a bill allocating an additional 20,000 billion rials ($524 million) for Iran's missile program and the Quds Force, an arm of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps

Iranian lawmakers voted to raise spending on the nation's missile program and elite forces, bolstering twin pillars of the security establishment that are at the center of a growing dispute with the United States.

The Iranian Parliament on Sunday overwhelmingly approved a bill allocating an additional 20,000 billion rials ($524 million) for Iran's missile program and the Quds Force, an arm of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps.

The legislation cited "hostile" US policies against Iran and American "adventurism in the region" for the move, Tasnim News Agency reported.

US President Donald Trump has expanded sanctions on Iran and swung behind its Persian Gulf rivals since taking office, amid signs he might attempt to sink the 2015 nuclear accord that opened the Islamic Republic for business.

The extra funding—on top of two years of increased defense spending—serves as a "multifaceted" message, according to a senior associate with the Proliferation Prevention Program at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"The missile program serves to project power and show strength at a time when the region is incredibly volatile" and "is geared toward Iran's regional adversaries like the [Persian] Gulf Arabs, as well as ISIS [an acronym for the self-styled Islamic State] and other terrorist groups," the expert was quoted as saying by Bloomberg on Monday.

"It also serves to show the US that the chest-thumping won't intimidate Iran. From their perspective, this is about deterrence," the expert added.

The seven-party nuclear agreement curbing Iran's nuclear program led to increased Iranian oil sales and investor interest in Iran, and was heralded as a basis for talks on easing clashes over Mideast flashpoints where Iran and Arab powers allied to the US are on opposite sides. But the deal has run into greater turbulence under Trump who is a vocal opponent of the deal.

His administration has so far found Iran to be in compliance with the accord after quarterly reviews—a judgment also made by international monitors—while claiming that its missile tests and overseas military activities are in breach of its spirit.

"Iran's other [alleged] malign activities are serving to undercut whatever 'positive contributions' to regional and international peace and security were intended to emerge" from the accord, US State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said last month.

In June, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signaled that support for peaceful regime change in Iran may be one option for the US to consider.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, whose diplomatic overtures concluded with the landmark breakthrough, on Sunday again warned against unilateral efforts to undermine it.

"Anyone who harms the accord harms himself and his country," Rouhani was quoted as saying by ISNA.

If the US acts against the agreement "everyone will side with us and against the person who wants to weaken it", he said in reference to other signatories to the deal, including Germany and France, which strongly support its continuation. Rouhani has come under growing pressure from conservative opponents at home who want a more assertive response to Trump.

The bill passed on Sunday, which had been before parliament for two months, constitutes a "first step", Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani was quoted as saying by IRNA.

"If the US applies sanctions that violate the multi-party nuclear deal with Iran, the Iranian government will be bound to react," he added.

Tehran considers American actions to have contravened the accord, as the extra sanctions have further disrupted efforts to normalize trade.


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