Rouhani urges military to bolster defense power as Iran unveils new missiles

By Ahmad Majidyar | Fellow and Director of IranObserved Project - The Middle East Institute | Apr 20, 2018
Rouhani urges military to bolster defense power as Iran unveils new missiles

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani voiced support for the country’s military forces to develop advance weapons, including missiles, to enhance the Islamic Republic’s deterrence capabilities. “I am support the Artesh [Iran’s regular army] and Sepah [Islamic Revolution Guards Corps] to make any weapons needed for defense,” the Iranian media quoted the president as saying at a ceremony marking the anniversary of the Iranian Army. He emphasized that the Iranian Army and the IRGC do not need the permission of any foreign power to bolster the country’s defense capabilities. At the same time, Rouhani tried to assure regional countries that Iran’s missiles and other military equipment are “for deterrence purposes” and do not pose a threat to neighboring countries. The Iranian president also criticized the US military presence and “interventionist” policies in the Middle East, arguing that the Islamic Republic needs a powerful military to defend the country in the “sensitive” Middle Eastern region.

In an apparent show of defiance, the Iranian military also new weapons and missiles during the National Army Day.

Media outlets published photos from the ceremony showing an unidentified cruise missile, which carried trapezoidal grid fins similar to US missiles. Mehr News Agency also reported that a new missile system called Kamin-2 was also on display at the parade. 

Comment: Rouhani’s claim that Iran’s missiles are only for defense purposes will do little to assuage concerns by regional countries about Iran’s growing military power and hostile rhetoric and actions by the country’s military leaders. Such statements will particularly not convince Israel as some ballistic missiles Iran has launched recently have had “Israel should be wiped off the Earth” inscribed on them in Hebrew. Saudi Arabia also accuses Iran of transferring ballistic missile technology to Houthi rebels in Yemen to target the Saudi mainland.

Iran’s ballistic missile program has also heightened tension between Washington and Tehran. President Donald Trump has warned that he will “terminate” the Iran nuclear deal next month unless European powers agree to pressure Tehran to curb its missile program and make some amendments to the accord about Iran’s nuclear program. While European powers oppose any efforts by the Trump administration to annul the nuclear deal, they share Washington’s concern about Iran’s ballistic missile program and malign activities in the region. Some European leaders have called for separate agreements with Iran on the missile dispute to supplement the Iran deal. However, Tehran has consistently rejected any talks with Western powers over the missile issue. 

ndeed, since signing the nuclear accord in July 2015, Iran has increased the production of its ballistic missiles and has  ballistic missiles. On March 7, a senior commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps said that Iran has increased its missile and defense-related production three-fold despite mounting pressure by the United States and its allies, . “The enemy’s actions and confrontation with us as well as their efforts to limit our defense power have backfired. In the past, we needed to convince the parliament and the government in this regard, but now all government officials are actively working on this and our production has increased three-fold compared to the past,” Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the chief commander of the IRGC Aerospace Force, told a conference on the significance of fighting for the Islamic revolution.

There is a general consensus among all Iranian leaders that the Islamic Republic should defy Western pressure and further enhance its missile program. According to Iranian military officials, the country has also  the range, precision and longevity of its ballistic missiles. In addition to missiles, Iran’s arms production capacity has seen a staggering 100-fold increase in the past five years. 

On May 12, Trump will face another deadline to decide on sanctions waiver for Iran. If he refuses to continue the sanctions waiver, the United States will effectively withdraw from the nuclear deal.