Iran’s foreign minister said Saturday Tehran will not agree to negotiate any limitations on its missile development program, amid calls by the US for a global effort to punish Iran for violating Security Council resolutions on ballistic missiles.
Speaking at an event in Tehran, Mohammad Javad Zarif said Iran needs the “best tools” to deter any attacks on the country, such as during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.
“Certainly, Iran’s missile program is crucially important and is not negotiable,” the semi-official Fars News agency reported him as saying.
Zarif also criticized Western countries for scrutinizing Iran’s missile program, but not Saudi Arabia’s purchase of advanced weaponry from Western arms manufacturers.
The foreign minister’s comments followed recent calls by the United States to other UN Security Council countries to set aside the nuclear deal loathed by President Donald Trump and focus on cracking down on Iran’s missile and other non-nuclear transgressions.
On Thursday, a UN atomic watchdog report said Thursday that Tehran is sticking to the nuclear deal, but is looking to develop seaborne nuclear capabilities.
The International Atomic Energy Agency document, the ninth since the deal came into force in January 2016, showed Iran complying with the accord’s key parameters, four months ahead of Trump’s deadline to fix its “disastrous flaws.”
However, the IAEA report also said that Iran informed it in January by letter of a decision to “construct naval nuclear propulsion in future.”
The IAEA has asked Tehran for further details. Press reports in the past have said that Tehran wants to develop nuclear-powered ships and/or submarines.
This has created concern in the past because of the possibility that Iran might use highly enriched uranium, forbidden under the nuclear deal, to power such vessels.
Uranium, when enriched to high levels of purity, can be used in a nuclear weapon. At low levels, it can be used for peaceful applications such as power generation — Iran’s stated aim.
While the IAEA reports have consistently shown Iran adhering to the deal in the two years since it took effect, the future of the hard-won agreement between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany is highly uncertain.
In January, Trump set a 120-day deadline for US lawmakers and European allies to “fix” his predecessor Barack Obama’s main foreign policy achievement or face a US exit.
He is concerned that parts of the deal begin expiring in 2026 and that it fails to address Iran’s missile program, its regional activities or its human rights abuses.
A US exit could kill the nuclear deal, which the Islamic Republic has refused to re-negotiate.
In addition to the nuclear accord, both the US and Israel remain at odds with Iran over its support for the Hezbollah terror group and ballistic missile program.
Next month, the two countries will take part in the Juniper Cobra exercise, which was first held in 2001 and is scheduled every two years. This year’s exercise simulates a massive ballistic missile attack against Israel and is also meant to improve ties between the two armies.
The Juniper Cobra exercise is scheduled to begin on March 4 and will formally run until March 15, though some American troops will stay in Israel and continue training with the IDF until the end of the month, the army said.
The threat from ballistic and guided missiles is one of the most significant threats facing Israel, and Israeli officials say it is growing.
The Iran-backed, Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist organization is suspected of maintaining a stockpile of some 150,000 missiles, which it could rain down on Israel at a rate of over 1,000 missiles a day in a future war.
Last weekend, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also revealed to the Munich Security Conference that Iran was looking to outfit the group with superior, precision-guided missiles, capable of hitting a target with an accuracy of a few dozen meters.
In Gaza, both the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad groups are believed to each have their own arsenals containing upwards of 10,000 rockets and mortars, though of an inferior quality, owing to the blockade of the coastal enclave enforced by both Israel and Egypt.
The air defense drill will take place a few short weeks after Israeli aircraft squared off against an Iranian drone and Syria’s air defense systems, though the IDF stresses that the biennial Juniper Cobra was planned long in advance and is not connected to any particular event.
Source » timesofisrael