Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has warned the Trump administration against “politicizing” Iran’s military activities. “We hope that the issue of Iran’s defense program… does not turn into a pretext for political games,” quoted Zarif as saying. Zarif, who spoke alongside visiting French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, was specifically responding to the latest reports that Iranian forces have test launched a new ballistic missile. As has been repeatedly maintained by top officials in Tehran, the Iranian foreign minister once again claimed that the Iranian ballistic missile is not in violation of the July 2015 nuclear agreement.
Zarif said that Iran has announced that none of its “ballistic missiles are designed to carry nuclear warheads” and that Tehran should be able to “serve the purpose of the Islamic Republic’s legitimate defense.” Zarif was no doubt moderate, if not defensive, in his tone given that he stood next to the French Foreign Minister who declared while in Tehran that France will continue to support the 2015 nuclear deal. Zarif’s moderate tone is also due to genuine fears in Tehran that the United States is working hard and might be able to reinstitute new international sanctions regime against Iran due to its ballistic missile program.
This fear is tied to an Iranian belief that the desire for new sanctions on Iran goes beyond the Trump administration and includes support from a significant part of the Democratic Party. The Iranians paid close attention to the last speech of Samantha Powers, the outgoing US ambassador to the U.N., in which she urged specifically the U.N. Security Council to be more forceful in monitoring Iranian defense-related activities, including the export of military hardware to the Lebanese group Hezbollah. The speech was viewed as Washington looking ahead at new ways to sanction Tehran