Defying U.S. pressure, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei reiterated on Wednesday that the country’s defense capabilities and assets are non-negotiable, .  “As I have declared in the past and am repeating it, the country’s defensive power and assets are not open for negotiation and bargaining. Particularly regarding defensive tools and everything that guarantee or support our national power, we have no bargaining and dealing with the enemy. And we will forcefully continue the path to power,” he told a gathering of graduates from Iranian Army universities.  

Khamenei, who has the final say in all state matters, claimed that the United States and its allies are troubled by Iran’s growing power in the region because they see it as “Islam’s strategic depth” – adding that the latest U.S. pressure to undermine Iran’s missile program is part of that broad effort. “The way to confront these hostilities is to go against their will and stand by elements of national power,” he stressed.

Brigadier General Abdolrahim Mousavi, the head of the Iranian Army, also spoke at the ceremony and urged the new graduates to strive to enhance Iran’s power so that the “pillars of the imperialistic regime [U.S.] collapse and the lifetime of the Zionist regime [Israel] comes to an end as soon as possible.”  

Comment: Tension between Washington and Tehran has escalated as the Trump administration recently decertified the Iran nuclear deal and adopted a more aggressive policy vis-à-vis the Islamic Republic. Iran’s launch of several ballistic missiles this year has been one reason Washington has accused Tehran of violating the “spirit” of the nuclear agreement.

Earlier today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed new sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile program. The vote was nearly unanimous as 423 members voted for the “Iran Ballistic Missiles and International Sanctions Enforcement Act.” Only two members did not.

While European powers opposes the Trump administration’s position on the nuclear deal, they share Washington’s concern about Iran’s missile activities, which are inconsistent with a U.N. resolution calling upon Iran to abstain from testing ballistic missile that could carry nuclear warheads.

Despite international pressure, there appears to be a consensus among political and military leaders in Tehran to continue and further advance Iran’s missile technology at any cost.

Last week, Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.) that Iran will defy U.S. pressure and further enhance the country’s controversial missile program. “The Islamic Republic’s missile power expanded during absolute sanctions regime and will continue and accelerate without a pause,” it said in a statement, adding that the I.R.G.C. will continue to confront the United States and Israel.

Last month, Iran’s Foreign Ministry on Iran’s willingness to negotiate its missile program with the United States. Baharm Ghassemi, the ministry’s spokesman, said the Iranian government vehemently refutes claims made in a Reuters report that Tehran was ready to negotiate parts of its controversial missile activities. “The Islamic Republic of Iran – in its public statements and diplomatic meetings with foreign authorities as well as interviews and meetings by Foreign Minister [Javad Zarif] during his trip to New York – has repeatedly emphasized that its defense programs are non-negotiable and does not consider it [missile program] inconsistent with the [U.N.] Resolution 2231,” Ghassemi said. “Iran considers missile defense programs as its legitimate right and will certainly continue it within the framework of its defensive, conventional and determined plans and strategies,” he added.

While the nuclear agreement does not address Iran’s missile program, the subsequent “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.” Iranian leaders argue that the country’s missiles are not designed to carry nuclear warheads, but U.S. officials some of the missiles Iran has tested after the 2015 nuclear deal have been "inherently capable of delivering nuclear weapons" and are "in defiance of" the U.N. resolution.