The chief of staff of the Iranian Armed Forces on Tuesday that the Islamic Republic will not submit to U.S. pressure and will press ahead with plans to bolster the country’s military and deterrent power. “With God’s mercy, and in line with the Islamic Republic of Iran’s defense doctrine and in view of threats posed by enemies’ military bases… we will not retreat for a moment from the process of strengthening the country’s deterrent power and defense power, and will not give in to pressure, the propaganda war and the psychological operation by the U.S. and its allies. We will counter them with the upper hand,” Major General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri told a gathering of military officials on the occasion of the new Iranian year, which began on March 21. The Iranian general further revealed that the top priority for the Iranian regular army and the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.) this year will be to enhance the country’s defense preparedness, quick reaction to threats, and intelligence activities vis-à-vis “foreign enemies” stationed around the country.

Comment: Bagheri’s comments come amid heightening tension between Washington and Tehran over the latter’s controversial ballistic missile activity and support for terrorist and sectarian groups in the region. The tension began after Iran test-fired a medium-range ballistic missile on January 28. The Trump administration said the test violated the U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, put Iran “on notice,” and imposed new sanctions on Iranian individuals and entities associated with the country’s missile program and support for terrorism.

So far, the response from Tehran has been one of defiance. Just days after Washington’s warnings, the Iranian military a surface-to-air missile from the same launch pad used for the January 28 test. And I.R.G.C. Deputy Commander Brigadier General Hossein Salami on February 8 that Iran would launch more advanced missiles in the future to boost its military capabilities “at all cost.” He argued that the only way to end U.S. threats is to “expand our domain of power to an extent that they realize acting against and threatening us will only earn them damaging losses.” Salami also praised Iran’s growing power and influence in the region and claimed that America’s “breathing space in the political and geopolitical arena has totally been squeezed.”